Kung Hei Fat Choy! Happy Lunar New Year!

It’s the Year of the Ox and Leaside families are celebrating…including mine. We – my daughter Zhen, born in China, my husband Warren, and I – enjoy celebrating with family and friends. We indulge in Chinese cuisine and Zhen bakes and decorates the official Zodiac cake, although this year we’ll have to eat the whole ‘Year of the Ox’ cake ourselves.

The Ox is the second of 12 Zodiac animals. According to ancient legend, the animals raced to become the Jade Emperor’s guards. Apparently, the Rat arrived first by hitching a ride on the Ox’s head. The Ox in second place was followed by the competitive and fast Tiger and Rabbit, coming in third and fourth. Next came the Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, with the Pig as the last to reach the Emperor’s feet. The legend proclaimed that each year’s animal infuses its characteristics on those born in that year.

Many Leasiders celebrate Lunar New Year. Historically, this spring festival was an opportunity for agricultural workers to rest and celebrate with family before spring planting.

According to Mark Whitten, who, with wife Anne and daughter Leah, is part of our group of Leaside-area families with children from China, “we’ve been celebrating together for over a decade. Our celebration is a way to honour our children’s heritage. We alternate hosting an annual dinner complete with traditional Chinese attire and ‘lucky’ foods. Fish for prosperity, dumplings and spring rolls for wealth, noodles for long life, and lemon chicken symbolizing togetherness, and for dessert a cake representing the year’s Zodiac animal.”

Mark added, “When we host, our house is decorated inside and out with lanterns and we greet visitors with oranges for a sweet New Year. Of course, this year’s celebration with our forever families and friends will be online.”

Leasider realtor Michael Wong and his family’s celebration will be quite different this year. “It’s a family affair for us,” he said. This is a humble comment given that his father, Dr. Joseph Wong, is the founder of the Yee Hong Foundation and annual gala.

“My brother and I have been volunteering for years at the Dragon Ball, one of the country’s largest and most prestigious CNY celebrations, which raises funds for Yee Hong Foundation, a non-profit organization providing culturally appropriate care for seniors in the GTA. This year’s fundraiser is online, so volunteers aren’t needed, and of course the pandemic mandates our family of four celebrate at home and do a video call with the extended family.”

Mike added, “Usually we clean the house before the new year and give the kids good fortune red money packets. We try and meet with our whole family over meals to celebrate togetherness and the new year. We’ll do hot pot at home or go out for dim sum and have dumplings, pan-fried radish cake, a duck and fish dish and sometimes to a non-Chinese restaurant avoiding the crowds. When my wife’s family were still in Toronto, her grandma would start dinner prep two days beforehand. It would be a big meal event with many delicious dishes.”

When asked if he sees signs of Chinese New Year in the neighbourhood, Mike commented, “you might see the occasional red good luck sign or a cut-out of the incoming Chinese Zodiac animal and perhaps some firecracker decorations hanging near the front door to ward off evil spirits.”

So, keep an eye out for Year of the Ox decorations in Leaside, let us know your favourites, and set Feb. 12th as a date to celebrate a fun family event.

About Suzanne Park 32 Articles
Suzanne Park is a leadership and conversation coach and writer who enjoys bringing to the pages of Leaside Life the unique experiences and community contributions of her Leaside neighbours. Her daughter Zhen, a student at Leaside High School, is also a contributor to Leaside Life with a fresh perspective on her community.