2020-12-16T17:40:53-05:00Jan 21, 2020|

Chinese New Year: A time for family reunions

Written by Wendy Ma, Javascript engineer, Arrive.


Wendy Ma moved to Canada from China with her parents when she was in the 10th grade. Several years later, her parents returned to China while Wendy stayed to complete high school and earn a degree in computer engineering at the University of Toronto. Wendy has been part of the Arrive family for about a year. This year, Wendy and her parents will reunite to celebrate Chinese New Year in Canada! Here’s Wendy’s story.


In Chinese culture, the most important festival of the year is Chinese New Year, also called Spring Festival or the Lunar New Year, which is equivalent to Christmas here. The festival celebrates the beginning of a new year on the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, so the date for Chinese New Year varies each year. Chinese New Year 2020 lands on January 25th. 

A celebration of family and tradition

Before moving to Canada, I celebrated Chinese New Year with my family in the traditional way. Coming up to the New Year, windows and doors would be decorated with red paper cut-outs bearing couplets with popular themes of happiness, wealth, and longevity. Red is believed to be an auspicious colour.

On the eve of Chinese New Year, our family gathered together to enjoy a large meal which would always include pork, duck, fish, chicken and most importantly, dumplings! This is known as the reunion dinner in China, and is considered the most important meal of the year. Airports, train and bus stations, and highways all over the country are crowded with people anxious to get home to see their loved ones.

We would eat and chat while watching the Spring Festival Gala on CCTV (Chinese Central Television) until the clock struck twelve. Then we’d all go out and set off long strings of small firecrackers and enjoy fireworks displays to welcome the new year. Early the next morning, I would greet my parents and grandparents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year, and receive money in red paper envelopes. Chinese New Year would last for two weeks. My parents and I would go door to door to visit relatives and wish them the best in the new year.

Celebrating Chinese New Year in Canada

Studying and then working in Canada made it difficult for me to travel back to China to celebrate Chinese New Year with my family each year. Therefore, the celebration is relatively simple and shorter, but still full of joy. My friends and I gather together at one of our homes, bringing meat and vegetables together to cook lots of delicious Chinese food. We still watch CCTV’s Spring Festival Gala as its a child memory and a habit for everyone.

We chat and play board games until very late. I also greet and update my family about my life through video calls while they are having dinner together on the Eve of Chinese New Year.

With Toronto’s large Chinese community, there are always different Chinese New Year Galas featuring chinese performances. Last year, I went to one of the shows and the performance was amazing! Celebrating Chinese New Year by watching a gala together with friends makes the celebration a lot more fun!

For newcomers, if you have just landed and your family is not with you during the Chinese New Year, don’t be alone – have a fancy dinner with your friends, watch a Chinese New Year gala near you, go to shopping malls and restaurants, see the red decorations all around. Adapting and enjoying yourself in a new way to celebrate this traditional holiday, you will have the best Chinese New Year ever!

A real reunion dinner 

This year, my parents will come to visit me for Chinese New Year! I can’t wait to enjoy our family time together: A real reunion dinner featuring the delicious traditional food cooked by my mom! I also plan to take them to Cuba for four days to escape the long winter and celebrate Chinese New Year in a new exciting way.

Happy Chinese New Year!  春节快乐  Chūnjié kuàilè