Lunar New Year roars in Scarborough with lion dance

Published On January 1, 2020 | By Trang Tran | Life
Lion dancers — decked out in hues of red and gold — perform at a Lunar New Year event in Scarborough on Jan. 25. (Trang Tran)
Trang Tran

Lions dressed in red and gold roared alive at Woodside Square in Scarborough on Jan. 25 — an event that signaled not an animal-control crisis but the start of Lunar New Year.

The lions in question weren’t of the feline variety, but the costume kind that are part of a Chinese tradition called the lion dance, a performance said to bring good luck and chase away bad spirits during Lunar New Year.

“I’m inside [the costume], but I feel happy because I can bring happiness to the public,” said Steve Cheung, a member of the Pak Mei Sam Choi Kung Fu Association’s Shing Tak Tong Lion Dance Team and one of the performers at this year’s Lunar New Year celebrations at the Finch Avenue East and McCowan Road area mall.

The lion dance is said to bring good luck and prosperity for Lunar New Year. (Trang Tran)

Dozens from the GTA’s Chinese community — and other Asian diasporas that celebrate Lunar New Year — took to the Scarborough mall during the afternoon to see the lion dance.

Councillor Cynthia Lai and Toronto Mayor John Tory, who wished attendees “a very prosperous” Year of the Rat, also attended.

The lion dance is of special importance at sites like malls during Lunar New Year because, in Chinese culture, it is believed lions may bring wealth and prosperity to businesses.

“It’s a good feeling because people are very happy to see the lion,” Cheung said.

Lion dancers from the Shing Tak Tong Lion Dance Team perform at Woodside Square on Jan. 25 to ring in the Year of the Rat. (Trang Tran)

Cheung and his team performed the lion dance outside many of Woodside’s retailers during the four-hour celebration.

Many storeowners offered green lettuce and red envelopes to the lion, a traditional custom that sees the lion gobbling up the greens and then spitting them out as a sign of good fortune.

Cheung is one of 20 lion dancers from the Scarborough-based Shing Tak team who meet weekly to practice performances.

He said many of the dancers juggle the commitment with full-time studies or work.

“We don’t have to do it for money,” Cheung said. “We do it for our hobby, our passion.”

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