How to Ring in the Lunar New Year in Victoria (2023)

XIN NIAN KUAI LE! To see what Victoria did for last year’s Year of the Tiger, visit last year’s blog post!

Note: The not-for-profit Chinese Canadian Museum are the generous folks behind many of these awesome events. With their home-base located in the iconic Fan Tan Alley, they aim to connect visitors and locals to the Chinese Canadian Story through transformative, educational programming. They’re an integral piece of Victoria and our Chinatown, and we hugely appreciate what they do!

From January 19th, any donation of $20 or more to the Chinese Canadian Museum will receive a pack of custom “Lucky Water Rabbit” red envelopes, illustrated by local artist Justine Crawford, while supplies last. We encourage you to donate to this important resource in our city. 

Red envelopes traditionally opened during celebrations like Chinese New Year

1.    Catch the Lion Dance Parade on January 29th

Although Chinese New Year is happening on January 22nd, Victoria is hopping into it a week later on the 29th! Rest assured: the tremendously entertaining Lion Dance parade hosted by the Wong Sheung Kung Fu club is well worth the wait! 

From noon – 3:30pm, lions and kung fu demonstrations will make their way throughout Chinatown, visiting merchants who hang offerings of lucky money (red envelopes) and lettuce for the hungry lions. The lions will bless the merchants, scare away evil spirits from the past year, and bring good luck for the new year. 

Yellow dragons and dancers perform through Victoria's Chinatown in front of the Gates of Harmonious Interest

Lions, dragons and dancers perform in front of the Gates of Harmonious Interest | Photo by Brandon McGeachie

2.    Go Lychee Tasting

On January 21st at 11:30am, the Chinese Canadian Museum is hosting a Lychee Tasting while supplies last. Lychee is a small, round fruit of the Chinese tree ‘litchi chinensis’. When eaten during Chinese New Year, it is said to bring forth close family ties in the upcoming year. The fruit is encased in a rough, reddish shell, but the flesh is white and sweet to the taste.  

If you’ve never tasted a lychee, now’s your chance! Drop into 10-14 Fan Tan Alley – located in the narrowest street in the country. 

A basket of lychees - a few are peeled to reveal the sweet, white flesh of the fruit

3.    Dine on Traditional Dim Sum

Dim sum is a large variety of small, shareable Chinese dishes that are traditionally enjoyed in restaurants for brunch and served with tea. The dishes are uniquely presented to customers from steam-heated carts.

Don Mee Seafood Restaurant is known for their delicious dim sum offering, as well as for being the pulse of Victoria’s vibrant Chinatown for over 80 years. Their spacious, lively atmosphere offers a traditional Chinese dining experience – complete with an incredible variety of dim sum offerings, dumplings, and buns.

To ring in the Year of the Rabbit, Don Mee is offering an impressive 8-course, $30 per person menu until February 5th! For menu details, click here.

4.    Sample Nian Gao

Nian Gao, which translates to “new year’s cake” is a sweet, brown sugar rice cake, usually made from sticky rice. 

In Chinese culture, you eat dishes that carry auspicious meanings during new year celebrations to bless your upcoming year. It is said that if you eat Nian Gao during Lunar New Year, the upcoming year will be better than the last. Get your fill of Nian Gao with the Chinese Canadian Museum on January 22nd at noon, while supplies last! 

A traditional nian gao or "new year cake", served with tea

5.    Experience I Ching Fortune Telling

I Ching (also known as the Book of Changes) is an ancient Chinese system of divination based on a series of symbols, rules, poems, and commentary. In Asia, people have used I Ching as a form of prediction and fortune-telling for over 3000 years. 

On January 28th, join the Chinese Canadian Museum at noon for a glimpse into your future year. 

6.    Make your own Lantern with your Chinese Name

The Lantern Festival is a tradition that marks the end of Chinese New Year’s celebrations. It falls on the 15th day of the first month in the lunisolar Chinese calendar, during a full moon. In 2023, this day falls on February 5th. The lanterns symbolize people letting go of the past year, and welcoming the new year with good fortune. 

To make sure you’re prepared, the Chinese Canadian Museum and the Victoria Chinese Public School will be helping you craft your own lantern complete with your Chinese Name! Head to 10-14 Fan Tan Alley around noon on February 4th for your own crafting session – admission by donation. 

Chinese Lantern ornately decorated in delicate red paper and golden accents


7.    Welcome in the year… with Chocolate!

Leap into the year with a dash of sweetness, with the help of Purdys Chocolatier. Their location in The Bay Centre features ornately decorated Lunar New Year gift tins, beautiful boxes featuring the twelve animals of the zodiac, lucky red packets, Year of the Rabbit chocolate medallions, and more. 

In Chinese culture, the colour red symbolizes energy, happiness, and good luck. These beautifully presented chocolates make for a beautiful (and delicious!) gift for friends, family, and co-workers that you wish to bless in the upcoming year. 

Lunar New Year chocolates from Purdys chocolatier


8.  Embrace the Year of the Rabbit–sharpen those skills!

Astrologers describe those born in the Year of the Rabbit as vigilant, witty, and quick-minded. 

Whether you’re born a Rabbit or not – we can all benefit from sharpening our minds! Channel your inner Rabbit by dropping into Puzzle Lab for a beautiful, handcrafted wooden puzzle. You’ll put your problem solving skills to the test – with their shapes mimicking coral growth patterns, no two Puzzle Lab puzzles are the same!

A deconstructed golden mandala puzzle from Puzzle Lab

Another great way to test your quick wits is by challenging your crew to a real-life escape room. Quest Reality Games, located on Wharf Street features four immersive themed rooms filled with puzzles and clue-solving opportunities. Escape an alien abduction, a sorcerer’s lair, an ancient Egyptian tomb, and a haunted manor before the time runs out! 

Solving Clues at Quest escape room reality games

Lastly, Rabbits are known to be vigilant, observant, and always on the watch. There’s no better way to watch over Victoria than by dining at Vista 18 – located on the 18th floor of the Chateau Victoria with a clear, unobstructed oversight of the city. 

Tip 1: During Lunar New Year celebrations, Vista 18 will be offering a $55 Dine Around menu showcasing the bounties of our region. Put this one on your Dine Around list, stat!

Tip 2: To see their best views, come as early possible (5pm) to see the sun set over the harbour, and the alpine glow at dusk! It’s absolutely spectacular!

XIN NIAN KUAI LE! To see what Victoria did for last year’s Year of the Tiger, visit last year’s blog post!

Download Victoria's Vacation Guide

Destination Greater Victoria is honoured to be based on the traditional territory of the Lekwungen-speaking peoples of the Songhees Nation and the Esquimalt Nation, whose historical relationships with the land continue to this day.