Under the Gates of Harmonious Interest, a crowd is lining the length of Fisgard Street. In the distance, deep, rhythmic drumming is growing louder and louder. Thump, thump, THUMP, THUMP!
At once, huge, colorful, tufted lions come snorting around the corner, dancing on human legs. As the parade rushes by, it is impossible not to get swept up in the tidal wave of dancers that carries you further into Canada’s oldest Chinatown. With its deep cultural roots, there is no better place to experience authentic Lunar New Year traditions than in this vibrant area of Victoria, BC. Here are our five reasons to check out Chinese New Year in Victoria and celebrate the Year of the Rooster.
1. Catch Sight of Authentic Performances
Immerse yourself in the magic of the new year and watch as performers take to the streets in colorful and elaborately decorated costumes during the ceremonial Lion Dance, which is thought to bring good luck. The festivities also include kung-fu and tai chi demonstrations, traditional dancing and dragon performances. For a one-of-a-kind performance including songs, comedy and drama, be sure to also check out the Chinese New Year Gala at the Royal McPherson Theatre, which is the largest festival of its kind in the area.
2. Discover the Chinese Community’s Historical Origins
Turn back time on a 30 minute spotlight tour of the Royal British Columbia Museum’s “Becoming BC Gallery.” Reconstructed street scenes and century-old artifacts tell a story of the first years of Victoria’s Chinatown district, the second-oldest in North America. Learn more about the contributions of the Chinese community by exploring exhibits of Chinatown, the railway and cannery.
3. Shop the Famously Narrow Fan Tan Alley
Victoria’s former gambling district, Fan Tan Alley is the narrowest street in Canada. Slip through the slender cobblestone walkway and literally immerse yourself in the city’s history. While you’re wandering, be sure to take advantage of the plentiful (yet slightly hidden) niche boutiques lining its walls.
4. Experience the World’s Oldest Tea Tradition
Relax and enjoy a ritual steeped in tradition during Silk Road’s Chinese Tea Ceremony. Soak in the peaceful atmosphere and sip on some unique and exquisite teas, from Silk Road’s Rare Chinese Tea Cellar. Once you are finished sampling these tasty teas, save your tea leaves for a tea reading and discover what the new year has in store for you.
5. Explore Historic Streets and Landmarks
If the stunning, vibrantly colored Gates of Harmonious Interest haven’t already caught your eye, make your way over to this iconic spot. Located on Fisgard Street, the ornate structure houses guides to the historic area’s landmarks. After a visit to Lotus Pond for some radish cake to go, grab a map and explore historic sites such as the Chinese Public School, Tam Kung Temple and McPherson Playhouse.
After a day ringing in the year of the Rooster, you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported into a different world. An important cultural symbol in and of itself, Victoria’s Chinatown truly comes to life during the New Year celebration, offering you a front row seat to an experience only found in Canada’s capital city.