Chinese New Year was celebrated in style this week, at a local restaurant.
Owners of the Capital Restaurant invited special guests to join them in ringing in the Year of the Monkey on Tuesday night, and treated them to a dazzling cultural display.
It started with the beating of a drum, clacking of firecrackers, and clanging of cymbals.
Musicians beat out an almost hypnotic rhythm until the arrival of the lion. When he appeared, he assessed the crowd, threw his head up, looked around.
Then, the gold lion with red fringes bobbed and weaved through the three rooms of the restaurant, as the two men operating the costume performed kung fu moves underneath. The dancers were brought to town from Vancouver, from the Shao Lin Kung Fu Association, and were guided through the crowded restaurant by Master Raymond Cheung.
The costume is designed with movable eyelids and a mouth that opens and closes, bringing the lion to life in combination with the movement underneath. As they move the lion, they are representing its habits of sleeping, scratching, stretching, walking, running, jumping and eating. The lion eats the Lei Si, or good luck money, which is often represented by lettuce.
It’s a traditional art form that is is a centuries-old and common throughout many Asian cultures, although styles of costume and dance differ from region to region.
The Shao Lin Association said the legend says a lion was made to drive off a monster that was raiding Chinese villages. Ever since, the lion has been considered a good omen.
The evening was filled with positive signs of a good year to come. Owners Ken and Donna Lo, and May and Paul Lo, greeted guests as they enjoyed an hours-long eight course meal. The special New Year’s menu was filled with dishes that aren’t on the menu, like prawns in cumin coconut cilantro sauce, diced beef with lotus root, and pan fried Yi-Mein.
Each guest who was born in the Year of Monkey was given a special gift, within a traditional small red and gold envelope.
The Chinese Zodiac is a 12-year cycle, restarting each year about a month after the more commonly used Gregorian calendar. Each year is represented by a different animal, and those born within that year are said to have common traits, and this year’s New Year was Feb. 8.
So what does it mean to be born in the Year of Monkey?
Monkeys are clever, and intelligent in their careers and with their wealth. They are lively, flexible, quick-witted and versatile. They are thought to be honest and skillful, but also born with a temper and tendency to look down on others.
They were born in 2016, 2004, 1992, and so on.
The night also included short speeches by the youngest members of the Lo family, Justin and Jessica. They greeted the crowd, in the restaurant where they have spent so many days and evenings, both working and working on their homework.
“This is my home,” Jessica, 16, said, while Justin, now a student at SFU, read a poem about the monkey.