PHOTOS: Victoria’s Chinatown rings in Year of the Ox without usual fanfare

Tony Yang, owner of gift shop Cathay Living, hopes locals will support Chinatown businesses during Lunar New Year, despite the cancellation of typical celebrations. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
In normal years, the Lion Dance delights the city, making its way through Fan Tan Alley and peeking in windows at shoppers and diners. But this year was a quiet affair, with COVID-19 cancelling the dance and other celebrations, which typically draw hundreds to Chinatown. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)In normal years, the Lion Dance delights the city, making its way through Fan Tan Alley and peeking in windows at shoppers and diners. But this year was a quiet affair, with COVID-19 cancelling the dance and other celebrations, which typically draw hundreds to Chinatown. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
The 2021 Lunar New Year was a quiet affair in Victoria, with COVID-19 cancelling the Lion Dance and other celebrations, which typically draw hundreds to the city’s historic Chinatown. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)The 2021 Lunar New Year was a quiet affair in Victoria, with COVID-19 cancelling the Lion Dance and other celebrations, which typically draw hundreds to the city’s historic Chinatown. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Fan Tan alley shopkeeper Cameron Anderson shows his support for the Lunar New Year from inside Whirled Arts. He anticipates a quiet weekend, in contrast with Lunar New Years of the past. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)Fan Tan alley shopkeeper Cameron Anderson shows his support for the Lunar New Year from inside Whirled Arts. He anticipates a quiet weekend, in contrast with Lunar New Years of the past. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
The 2021 Lunar New Year was a quiet affair in Victoria, with COVID-19 cancelling the Lion Dance and other celebrations, which typically draw hundreds to the city’s historic Chinatown. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)The 2021 Lunar New Year was a quiet affair in Victoria, with COVID-19 cancelling the Lion Dance and other celebrations, which typically draw hundreds to the city’s historic Chinatown. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
The 2021 Lunar New Year was a quiet affair in Victoria, with COVID-19 cancelling the Lion Dance and other celebrations, which typically draw hundreds to the city’s historic Chinatown. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
The 2021 Lunar New Year was a quiet affair in Victoria, with COVID-19 cancelling the Lion Dance and other celebrations, which typically draw hundreds to the city’s historic Chinatown. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)The 2021 Lunar New Year was a quiet affair in Victoria, with COVID-19 cancelling the Lion Dance and other celebrations, which typically draw hundreds to the city’s historic Chinatown. (Nina Grossman/News Staff) The 2021 Lunar New Year was a quiet affair in Victoria, with COVID-19 cancelling the Lion Dance and other celebrations, which typically draw hundreds to the city’s historic Chinatown. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
The 2021 Lunar New Year was a quiet affair in Victoria, with COVID-19 cancelling the Lion Dance and other celebrations, which typically draw hundreds to the city's historic Chinatown. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
The 2021 Lunar New Year was a quiet affair in Victoria, with COVID-19 cancelling the Lion Dance and other celebrations, which typically draw hundreds to the city’s historic Chinatown. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)The 2021 Lunar New Year was a quiet affair in Victoria, with COVID-19 cancelling the Lion Dance and other celebrations, which typically draw hundreds to the city’s historic Chinatown. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
David Yuen, owner of Free House Import Co. – Victoria Dragon Village, is stocked to the brim with decorations for Lunar New Year. With the usual celebrations cancelled by COVID-19, the Victoria community leaders are encouraging residents to support Chinatown businesses and consider decorating their front steps for the 15-day celebration, making the first day of the first Lunar month and ending on the first full moon of the new year. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)David Yuen, owner of Free House Import Co. – Victoria Dragon Village, is stocked to the brim with decorations for Lunar New Year. With the usual celebrations cancelled by COVID-19, the Victoria community leaders are encouraging residents to support Chinatown businesses and consider decorating their front steps for the 15-day celebration, making the first day of the first Lunar month and ending on the first full moon of the new year. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
The 2021 Lunar New Year was a quiet affair in Victoria, with COVID-19 cancelling the Lion Dance and other celebrations, which typically draw hundreds to the city’s historic Chinatown. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)The 2021 Lunar New Year was a quiet affair in Victoria, with COVID-19 cancelling the Lion Dance and other celebrations, which typically draw hundreds to the city’s historic Chinatown. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
The 2021 Lunar New Year was a quiet affair in Victoria, with COVID-19 cancelling the Lion Dance and other celebrations, which typically draw hundreds to the city’s historic Chinatown. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)The 2021 Lunar New Year was a quiet affair in Victoria, with COVID-19 cancelling the Lion Dance and other celebrations, which typically draw hundreds to the city’s historic Chinatown. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Fan Tan alley shopkeeper Cameron Anderson shows his support for the Lunar New Year from inside Whirled Arts. He anticipates a quiet weekend, in contrast with Lunar New Years of the past. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)Fan Tan alley shopkeeper Cameron Anderson shows his support for the Lunar New Year from inside Whirled Arts. He anticipates a quiet weekend, in contrast with Lunar New Years of the past. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Strong-willed, resilient and capable – the Year of the Ox is upon us, and the strong animal’s attributes are certainly in need.

Friday morning marked a cold, quiet kickoff to Lunar New Year in Victoria’s Chinatown, with only a handful of bundled up pedestrians traversing the near-empty streets and workers silently unloading boxes of vegetables outside markets.

Feb. 12 – the first day of lunar calendar – is starts the celebration that continues for 15 days until the first full moon. The cold morning – roughly one year into the COVID-19 pandemic – was a marked departure from past years, when hundreds of people lined Fisgard Street to bid farewell to the old year and take in the flowing, bright march of the Lion Dance parade and the Victoria Public Chinese School students dancing through the second oldest Chinatown in North America.

This year, the only sign of Lunar New Year is the red lanterns and paper cuttings visible in doors and windows.

READ ALSO: Lion dance, Kung Fu demonstrations celebrate Chinese New Year

Victoria Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe says celebrations will look different – just like most holidays during COVID-19.

“The Lunar New Year, traditionally, is a time to celebrate by having gatherings with family and friends,” she said. “It’s a time to gather to eat a lot of your favourite food and celebrate … and of course this year we cannot, and should not, travel or have gatherings.

“So it’s very difficult but hopefully people will try to find creative ways to celebrate while staying apart.”

In lieu of the usual fanfare, Victoria council supported Thornton-Joe’s motion calling on locals to wear red on Feb. 12 and decorate their homes with red items and Chinese decorations for the next two weeks.

“Red symbolizes good luck and of course we want to do everything we can to bring in more prosperity, more happiness and more importantly, good health for this year,” Thornton-Joe said. “We can celebrate also by going to Chinatown and buying some decorations and supporting the businesses. It’s a good time to take out or eat in at your favourite Chinese or Vietnamese or Korean or Thai restaurants.”

Thornton-Joe hopes the traits of the ox will help everyone through the remainder of 2021.

“The ox is a symbol of hard work and loyalty,” she said. “I think what we’re seeing that this year is going to have obstacles and hardships, but we will persevere because the ox … through hard work, does persevere.”

READ ALSO: Victoria ushers in Year of the Pig


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