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Year of the dragon, dance of the lion: N.L. Chinese Association rings in new year

The Chinese Association of Newfoundland and Labrador rang in the Chinese New Year with a whirlwind tour around St. John's, Mount Pearl, and Paradise over the weekend.

The Chinese New Year is about new beginnings and challenges, says Francis Tam

Two people stand in a lion costume, with a Happy New Year banner coming out of its mouth.
The traditional Lion's Dance represents chasing away evil spirits and bringing in good luck for the Lunar New Year. (Sarah Antle/CBC)

"This is the year of the dragon," said Francis Tam, president of the Chinese Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. "Dragons are very fierce."

The association had just completed the seventh performance of the traditional Lion's Dance at Noodle Nami restaurant in Churchill Square. With nine performances around St. John's, Mount Pearl and Paradise, Tam said, it was a busy day for the group, all to ring in the Lunar New Year on Saturday. 

"The lion represents chasing away evil spirits and bringing forth good luck and prosperity to those who are around the mythical animal," Tam explained. 

Two to three people wearing the costume dance around while drums beat in the background. It weaves through the crowd — what Tam describes as the lion being "awakened" — and blesses the property to chase away those evil spirits. 

A man in a black and red long sleeve shirt sits smiling at the camera.
Francis Tam, president of the Chinese Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, says the Chinese New Year is important for sharing culture and coming together as a community. (Sarah Antle/CBC)

Another person dresses in a red dress with a mask on, dancing next to the lion. 

The day, he said, is important for the community and for sharing cultures. 

WATCH | See one of 9 performances of the Lion Dance in St. John's:

The Lion’s Dance kicks off the Lunar New Year — all around St. John’s

2 months ago
Duration 0:41
The Chinese Association of Newfoundland and Labrador was busy entertaining — and educating — crowds around St. John’s this weekend with the Lion Dance to start the Lunar New Year. President Francis Tam said the lion represents chasing away evil spirits and bringing good luck.

At each of the nine locations the group visited, Tam said, they were met with a crowd of celebrators. 

"It's very important for our community here in St. John's — all the Asian people here and all the Chinese people right there in this community," he said. 

For him, it's not just another day in the calendar. 

"It's to new beginnings, new challenges," he said. 

Tam grew up in Corner Brook, and his family made sure that he didn't lose his Chinese heritage living on the island, he said. That's why, he said, he's passionate about teaching others about the culture and including everyone.

Two women, one with long white hair and one with short brown hair, sit on a bench.
Katie Van Gulik and Jan Brien enjoyed the performance of the Lion's Dance in Churchill Square. (Sarah Antle/CBC)

Jan Brien is one of those people. 

She sat on a bench with her friend Katie Van Gulik to watch the performance in the bottom floor of the Churchill Square establishment. 

"I've been to a lot of Asian countries, and I love this sort of thing, and seeing another culture give us a taste of their culture was fantastic," Brien said, smiling as she described seeing the lion dance. 

This was Van Gulik's first time watching the Lion's Dance. "This was exciting, really exciting," she said.

Tam agreed. "It's definitely been quite an event," he said. 

"It's to see the, you know, the expressions in the little faces of the children and even the adults … they're all in awe. Everybody's got their phones out. It's been quite … a ride so far." 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Antle

Journalist

Sarah Antle is a journalist working with CBC in the St. John's bureau.

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