Torontonians forge path to happiness as they ring in Year of the Rat

Published On January 24, 2020 | By Pooja Luthra | Arts
Pooja Luthra
Master Hsing Yun, founder of the Fo Guang Shan Temple of Toronto, has deemed “way to happiness” the theme of this year’s Chinese New Year Fair. (Pooja Luthra)

Michelle Tan could have never guessed a visit to the Fo Guang Shan Temple of Toronto during Lunar New Year five years ago would be a turning point in her life.

“I came here alone as I did not know anyone,” said Tan, 28, who is an advisor at the Buddha’s Light International Association. “I was depressed and isolated since I had no friends. Coming here changed everything as I have now got friends like family.”

Fair attendees left slips of paper on the wishing tree, which held guests’ hopes for the New Year. (Pooja Luthra)

Fo Guang Shan held its annual Chinese New Year Fair on Jan. 19, and this year’s theme, which welcomes the Year of the Rat, was “Way to Happiness.”

“All the people who come to the temple are mostly from east of Scarborough, Markham, North York as it [Fo Guang Shan] is one of the biggest and most well known Buddhist temples in the GTA that hosts Chinese New Year every year,” fair organizer Carmen Siu said.

Albee Fung, 29, has attended the fair for the last two years.

She said she’s excited to welcome the Year of the Rat and described the fair as the perfect opportunity to spend time with friends and family.

Guests purchased decorative items at the fair to help welcome the Year of the Rat. (Pooja Luthra)

“It is a New Year for us, so it is a good time for us to celebrate with friends and family,” Fung said. “It is a part of our culture. Writing down a wishing slip offer news hope for everyone.

“Mentioning names on the wishing slip is like sending a blessing to one other,” she said.

“Anything and everything that is associated with rats are mostly purchased by people,” said fair vendor Kin, who has one name. “They like to buy things that are unique yet related to their culture and tradition. This festival is also a way to stay in touch with religion.”

Many of the decor and gifts on display were modelled after or adorned with images of rats. (Pooja Luthra)

Guests at the fair appeared in high spirits as they purchased flowers, Chinese knotting and other decor displayed at on-site stalls.

Other fair highlights included the kung fu, lion and dragon dance performances.

“The lion is a symbol of killing the devil that is inside so that we can live peacefully and happily,” said Tom Ly, a volunteer at the event. “The lion and dragon become an important symbolic representation of unity, luck and happiness.”

A traditional lion dance was among the highlights of Fo Guang Shan Temple’s Lunar New Year festivities. (Pooja Luthra)

“The main aim of the festival is to bring peace, prosperity, wisdom, hope and happiness to the lives of the people,” Ly said. “And every journey is a course to contentment. The fair’s goal is to enrich culture and community support and understanding.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *