Vancouver’s LunarFest Celebrates a Contemporary Expression of Lunar New Year

Vancouver hi5s cultural diversity with LunarFest, held at the Vancouver Art Gallery through February 13.

Credit: LunarFest

LunarFest 2011 in Vancouver from February 3–13

Celebrate LunarFest 2011 in Vancouver from February 3–13

What began as part of the Cultural Olympiad for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games is now an annual multicultural event


Vancouver’s LunarFest celebrations began three years ago as the result of the Cultural Olympiad—the cultural program leading up to and during the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games.


In an effort to recognize the celebration of the Lunar Calendar not only by Chinese but Korean, Vietnamese, Tibetans, Taiwanese and Japanese (note: Japan officially adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1873), the Lunar New Year’s celebrations were dubbed LunarFest.


This year’s LunarFest runs today through Sunday, February 13. The dates are slightly different each year, as the Lunar New Year follows the cycle of the moon.


The 10-day festival includes a lantern display and parades, concerts, lantern-making workshops and more. All events are free, except the concert (see below).


History of the Lantern Festival

According to legend, 2,000 years ago in China, people were able to watch gods and deities dance under the full moon. One year, a cloud hid the gods. In panic, people lit torches to find the figures of their gods. Since then, the custom has been passed down the generations as people light paper lanterns on the first full moon of every year to watch “the show of the gods.” Eventually the celebration was named the Lantern Festival by the ancient Chinese. (Read more history.)


Modern-day LunarFest

Our modern-day LunarFest uses beautiful lanterns and lights to draw Vancouverites out on cold, dark February days. A key goal of the celebration is to bring together new Canadians and those who have been here for generations to celebrate in our cultural diversity.


Charlie Wu, managing director of ACSEA, the Asian-Canadian Special Events Association and organizers of LunarFest, says it’s important to start new traditions.


“Canadians are very proud of their diversity. It is time that we start a new tradition for Canadians and the CIBC LunarFest is all about community engagement and fostering a new artistic expression. We are happy to bring Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tibetan and Taiwanese communities together to celebrate.”


 Vancouver LunarFest Lunar New Year 2011

Lanterns on display in the Lantern Forest on Granville Street during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.


LunarFest lantern display at the VAG, February 3–13 (free)

LunarFest will feature a unique lantern display downtown in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) on the West Georgia side of the gallery. The display will be open from 4 to 11 p.m., throughout the festival.


Lantern Aquarium, February 3–13 (free)

New this year is the Lantern Aquarium, an 80-foot long outdoor undersea tunnel with oceanic creatures displayed in lantern form at the VAG. At the centre is a 10-foot Coral Castle lantern representing an endangered coral reef and the sea life that lives off of it—sure to be a must-see display of artistic innovation!


Inspired by the Vancouver Aquarium, children from around the Lower Mainland were invited to submit their drawings of sea life to have them turned into environmentally friendly paper lanterns that make up the Lantern Aquarium exhibit.


The BC Hydro AquaVan will be at the VAG on February 4, 5, 6, 12 and 13 from 4 to 9:30 p.m. with its interactive sea-life exhibit featuring sea stars, urchins, anemones and crabs.


LunarFest lantern procession, February 5 and 12 (free)

Two lantern processions will be held this year; one on the fifth of February, the second on the 12th (exactly one year after the opening of the Vancouver Olympics). Led by the Public Dreams Society, the organizers of Vancouver’s Parade of Lost Souls, this procession of lanterns will flow down the Granville corridor from 6 to 7 p.m. Entertainment during the procession will include stilt-walkers, musicians and hula-hoopers, followed by a fire performance at Granville and Smithe.


Wu says it is really exciting to have the Public Dreams Society involved in the procession. “Public Dreams Society is one of the pioneers in Vancouver for lantern festivals. The result is a celebration like no other and a legacy for Vancouver.”


Lantern making workshops, February 5 and 12 (free)

This is a great activity for any age! If you are leery to mess up your own living room with tissue, glue and other crafty materials, folks from the Public Dreams Society will be hosting free lantern-making workshops on both Saturdays between 3 and 6 p.m. at the VAG.


LunarFest concert, February 5 ($15)

On Saturday, February 5 from 7 to 8 p.m, Orchid Ensemble will perform at Christ Church Cathedral at Georgia and Burrard. The instrumental group blends Asian and Western sounds together.  


LunarFest lantern photo contest

Snap photos of the LunarFest activities and you could win some awesome prizes (think cash and gift cards). Join the LunarFest Facebook group and upload your best photo to the site. More details here.