Vancouver’s Chinese New Year Parade took place recently on a wet and rainy Sunday morning. Despite the miserable weather, many people came out to Chinatown to celebrate in the festivities, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. His surprise appearance was circled by a flock of media and security personnel as he walked down the parade route greeting spectators and shouting “gung hay fat choy.”
It was hard to get a good shot of him with so many people surrounding him, so I barely was able to catch a glimpse of his head and waving hand floating above his entourage.
Following immediately after the prime minister were all the city officials. Mayor Gregor Robertson was one of several officials who were cheerily greeting people and handing out red envelopes. I didn’t notice him until he was standing next to me, which is when I took this photo of him.
The performers in the parade did a great job of creating a lively atmosphere despite the rain. It wasn’t a light drizzle either. Umbrellas were definitely needed. It got cumbersome to hold a camera in one hand and an umbrella in the other, so a couple times I put my umbrella away. But after getting soaked, I resorted back to the umbrella. After an hour and a half, my hands and feet were thoroughly icy cold. I give a ton of credit to the performers, especially since many didn’t carry umbrellas or looked like they were dressed warmly enough.
The annual Chinese New Year Parade is one of the biggest cultural celebrations in Vancouver. Since I’ve moved here almost ten years ago, I’ve been to six of the CNY parades. Prior to that, I never attended one. Although I could have when I lived in Chicago, the sub-zero temperatures were enough of a deterrent. I guess you can say I’m making up for it now!
Getting a good spot to take photos is always a challenge. I haven’t found the perfect spot yet, although my guess is there isn’t one. But, if you have media credentials then that will certainly be better than standing off to the side with the rest of the crowds. Arriving early doesn’t guarantee a good view of the parade, contrary to what you might think. In years past, I would arrive almost an hour early to claim my spot, but still have crowds of people blocking me.
Although the rain may result in a lower turnout and less chance of getting blocked by crowds, the challenge instead becomes umbrellas obstructing your view.
Many of the performers who walked this year’s parade are the same from previous years. But, I still attend because why not; I’ve gone four years in a row now, and I might as well keep the tradition going. Each year is designated by an animal on the Chinese zodiac and this year is the rooster. So, even if there are many of the same groups walking the parade, there will always be participants wearing special costumes to celebrate the zodiac animal.
The Chinese zodiac consists of twelve animals. Therefore, each animal on the zodiac is celebrated on a repeating twelve-year cycle. Your birth year determines your zodiac animal, so your animal year will occur at the ages of 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, 84, etc. According to the Chinese, it’s bad luck if it’s your animal year. For any superstitious folks who want to know, you can counter the bad luck by wearing something red.
Red is considered a lucky color in Chinese culture, which is why you see many people wearing red or hanging red decorations during this festive holiday. According to an old legend, a beast that lived in the mountains would terrorize a nearby village on the first day of every year. One year an old man who came upon the village told the villagers how to protect themselves from the beast. He told them the monster didn’t like the color red and loud noises, so the villagers hung red signs on their doors, beat their drums, and set off loud firecrackers to scare away the beast. They were successful at keeping the monster away and from then on continued to do the same thing at the start of every year.
It’s an interesting story to explain the origins of Chinese New Year, though I doubt many young people today know the story. I didn’t know it until recently and I’ve already celebrated many Chinese New Years!
Now, no special reason is needed to set off loud firecrackers or bang on drums other than to celebrate the new year. It’s also a good time to get together with friends and family to enjoy big feasts. If there’s anything the Chinese are good at besides making a lot of noise, it’s to eat well.
The photos posted here are just some from the ones I took during the Chinese New Year Parade. If you’d like to see more, you can check out my Flickr album.