The Year of the Monkey is upon us, and what better place to celebrate Chinese New Year than in Canada's oldest Chinatown? In Victoria, you'll find no shortage of cultural experiences to help you ring in the New Year with authentic traditions and festive events.
Attend the Annual Ceremonial Lion Dance
The pinnacle of Chinese New Year celebrations in Victoria is without a doubt the ceremonial Lion Dance. Spectators will be immersed in the magic and charm of this colourful occasion which will include kung-fu and tai chi demonstrations, traditional dancing and dragon performances.
Store windows will be decorated with traditional red and gold good luck symbols, and the Chinatown grocers have an array of tempting and delicious goodies on display, such as mandarin oranges with bright green stems and leaves still attached (a symbol of good luck and prosperity) and bundles of fresh lychee fruit, which is eaten at this time of year because it symbolizes strong family relationships.
The Lion Dance is set to take place on Sunday, February 14 at approximately 11:00 a.m. near the Gates of Harmonious Interest on Fisgard Street. We recommend that you get there early to secure a great vantage point as this is one event you won't want to miss.
Explore Canada's Oldest Chinatown
Take some time to explore the vibrant wonders of Chinatown, including the famously narrow Fan Tan Alley. You'll uncover traditional Chinese toys and games, artwork, homewares and unique clothing in Chinatown's many locally-owned boutiques. Insider tip: keep your eyes up, as many of Chinatown's historic buildings are adorned with clues as to when they were built, and for what purpose.
Uncover Your Future with Tea (and Dim Sum)
Tea lovers, get ready. In Victoria, you will discover the world's oldest tea tradition at Silk Road Tea as you sample Chinese teas literally worth their weight in gold and allow the tea leaves to give you a glimpse into the future.
Once you're ready for lunch, we suggest you head over to the Hotel Grand Pacific who from January 30 to February 11 will be serving a special afternoon tea service featuring Chef Rick Choy's uniquely handmade dim sum and limited-edition Chinese loose leaf teas. The meal will include savoury items such as Steamed Buns with Braised Pork Belly, Dungeness Crab Salad and Tea Poached Quail Egg. Sweet creations will include Roasted Almond Truffles, a Sesame Pastry Globe (think donut/biscuit hybrid, also known as heaven for your mouth) and Coconut Mango Tapioca Pudding. Yum.
Go Back In Time
For a truly historic experience, visit the Royal BC Museum and take a guided, 30-minute tour of the Becoming BC Gallery. You'll be transported back in time as you explore exciting stops in Chinatown, the railway and the cannery, which illustrate the contributions of the Chinese community to the rich history of our province. Fun fact: the Chinatown exhibit is decorated for Chinese New Year by the students of the Victoria Chinese Public School.
Make a Night of It
Why not keep the celebration going? Enjoy a special Chinese seafood Dinner Gala at Don Mee Seafood Restaurant or head to Xiang Rui Chinese Restaurant for a great meal to ring in the New Year. If you're still in Chinatown and looking for more west coast-inspired fare, we highly recommend you check out Olo Restaurant, whose farm-to-table menu is built around high-quality and locally-sourced ingredients.
After a day of eating, drinking and revelling, you'll want a comfy place to snuggle up for the night. Relax in style at the Hotel Grand Pacific (Tip: if you're travelling from Seattle, take advantage of their Chinese New Year Overnight Package which includes a round-trip Clipper cruise) or snag a deal on accomodation at the Chateau Victoria Hotel & Suites or the charming James Bay Inn & Hotel.