Traditions of the Lunar New Year

Three lions gather around for a traditional Chinese dance ceremony at SAIT, Calgary on Jan. 20, 2023. The lion dance is a Lunar New Year tradition, which is considered to bring lots of good luck and ward off all evil energy in the upcoming new year. (Photo by Iaman Nawaz/The Press)

Loud drums echo through the atrium as the colourful lions begin to parade in through the large foyer. Children and adults’ faces alike beam with excitement. The Lunar New Year’s celebration has officially begun at SAIT.

This year’s celebration commenced with a traditional lion dance at the Irene Lewis Atrium on Jan. 20. The lion dance was open to both students and non-students to attend.

Lion Dances

A lion dance is a traditional Chinese dance usually performed during the Lunar New Year. Some performers are costumed in bright outfits during the dance to resemble lions, while others are underneath the masks of Buddha. The Buddha in this dance teases the lions by pulling their tails or by simply approaching them. He also provides the comedic relief for the audience.

“Since it’s just me and my sister living together, we usually try to catch like, a lion dance at least,” said Emily Wong, a web design instructor at SAIT.

The dance is considered to bring good luck and prosperity in the upcoming year and it also symbolizes the warding off of evil. The lions usually interact with the audience and sometimes even bite the heads of people to bring them good luck.

“I think my favourite part about the lion dance would be the [lion eating], because they eat lettuce or fruit to symbolize wealth,” said Wong.

A Buddha leads the lion dance with his fan, setting the pace for all the lion dancers at SAIT, Calgary on Jan. 20, 2023. The Buddha traditionally wears a yellow robe with a red belt and he is also known to engage with the lions as comedic relief. (Photo by Iaman Nawaz/The Press)

Red Envelops and Feasts

The Lunar New Year is the celebration of the beginning of a new year according to the lunar calendar. It is one of the most important holidays in China and it is also widely celebrated in other East Asian countries like South Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan.

“I’m from Taiwan. So in this year, on this special day, we will gather together to have a dinner, and also [give] the red envelope,” said Zoe Lin, a SAIT student, during the lion dance parade.

A red envelope is given as a wish of good luck for the year ahead.

The red envelope is a pocket of money usually given during different holidays and celebrations, with the red colour of the envelope symbolizing luck.

The Lunar New Year lasts around 15 days and is celebrated in many different ways, but one of the main ways it’s celebrated is with a huge meal with family and loved ones.

“I come from Hong Kong,” said Stephanie Lam, an international student at SAIT. “This is quite special, because this is my first time celebrating Chinese New Year in Calgary.”

This year, Lam and seven of her friends, who are also from Hong Kong, decided to host a dinner for their group. They prepared their traditional dishes, which included seafood, chicken and lots of soup.

“I didn’t visit my relatives in Hong Kong because it feel so boring. But maybe because I’m away from Hong Kong and with no family and friends, I feel this is the good time to have Hong Kong people together,” said Lam.

Zoe Lin, a SAIT student, attends the Lunar New Year lion dance at SAIT, Calgary on Jan. 20, 2023. The building was filled with people, with just as many non-students in the crowd as there were students, people of all ages waiting to see the traditional dance. (Photo by Iaman Nawaz/The Press)


About Iaman Nawaz 6 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Iaman Nawaz is working as a writer for The Press in 2023.