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A lunar new year like no other: B.C.’s annual festivities go online amid COVID-19

Click to play video 'Lunar New Year: welcoming Year of the Ox online' Lunar New Year: welcoming Year of the Ox online
Lunar New Year is fast approaching but due to COVID-19, the annual parade in Chinatown won't be held and other public events will be celebrated in a socially distanced way this Year of the Ox. Nadia Stewart reports – Feb 6, 2021

When B.C. rings in the year of the ox next Friday, it will look unlike any lunar new year the region has seen before.

In Vancouver, gone will be the 3,000-strong Vancouver Chinatown Spring Festival Parade with its 100,000 spectators, thanks to COVID-19 restrictions banning events and social gatherings.

Read more: Rattled by coronavirus, Chinese communities cancel Lunar New Year plans

There will be no lion dancing or fireworks in the street, no police band marching and no politicians glad-handing.

“There’s a feeling of sadness since we’re not able to come together for the festivities this year,” Anabel Ho, artistic director at the Vancouver Academy of Dance, told Global News.

Click to play video 'Lunar New Year celebrations continue under coronavirus scare' Lunar New Year celebrations continue under coronavirus scare
Lunar New Year celebrations continue under coronavirus scare – Jan 26, 2020

“But the health and safety of all is what comes first in the grand scheme of things.”

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Normally, Ho’s dancers would be participating in the parade, along with performances around the Lower Mainland including at Aberdeen and Lansdown Centres.

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Instead, like groups throughout the pandemic, they’ve pivoted to virtual; In this case, by producing a dance video shot in the streets of Chinatown that will be made available online.

Fred Kowk, chair of the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Vancouver, said there will also be a “virtual parade,” complete with performances and greetings from community leaders.

And the politicians will get in a little bit of glad-handing in, if virtual, after all.

Read more: Thousands turn out for Vancouver Lunar New Year parade despite coronavirus concerns

The virtual event will be intercut with footage from previous years to create the feel and mood of the massive event “so they can share the same joy like in past years,” Kwok said.

“It puts us together through the virtual celebration … we can also bring in more people from home. In a way, that’s a positive result.”

Out at Richmond’s Aberdeen Centre, usually a locus of lunar new year activities, the decorations are still going up, including a stage for performance.

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Coronavirus: Dr. Bonnie Henry says ‘hold off’ on Super Bowl gatherings in B.C – Feb 1, 2021

But instead of a live audience, the music and dance will be broadcast on Fairchild TV.

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“We still put up all the seasonal decorations, we still have the stage, and we decorated with the ox,” Tiffany Ho, senior general manager with Fairchild Development said.

With the ox representing strength, earnestness, diligence and positivity in the Chinese zodiac, it may be the perfect symbol for a tough year to come.