T&T Supermarket in Waterloo, Ont., is bustling with shoppers picking up items under brightly coloured Lunar New Year decorations.
Red lanterns, lucky bamboo and lots of candy are just some of the festive items you might find at the store, which specializes in selling East Asian food.
Sunday will be the last day of the Year of the Tiger and the first day of the Year of the Rabbit.
Charles Zhang, the store manager, said sales are always up leading to the Lunar New Year, with roughly 2,000 to 3,000 shoppers visiting every day.
“Chinese New Year is our No. 1 busiest weekend by far, even compared to Christmas or the Mid-Autumn Festival,” he said. “I’d say it’s easily double — if not triple the amount of customers on a weekly basis.”
He said customers are looking for specific items that are not sold at other grocery stores.
“People from Cambridge or Guelph may have their local store for regular stuff, but when it comes to Chinese New Year, there’s certain stuff you can only get from T&T in our kitchen and bakery, like rice cakes.”
‘Family and food’
It helped put last-minute shoppers in a festive mood.
Denise Korsman was loading up her basket with hot pot essentials.
“After all the stuff with COVID, it’s nice to have something to celebrate,” she said. “I’ve bought dumplings, steam buns, bok choy and the whole shebang.”
Lisa Yip said she’s picking up last-minute ingredients to make a traditional rice cake at home.
“It’s always so festive around Chinese New Year,” she said, admiring the decorations around the store. “Bright colours, lots of excitement, lots of food. That’s one of the big things about Chinese New Year. Family and food.”
Jinrong Hung said he is glad New Year’s Day is on the weekend this year because he won’t have to miss any university classes to celebrate. He was picking up some festive drinks with his mom.
“It’s only me and my mom in Canada,” he said. “My other family is in China and Singapore, so we have to use the video chat to eat our new year dinner.”
Kern Pageau said he is looking forward to celebrating with their extended family members.
“My son-in-law is Vietnamese, so they always get together and it’s a big festive time for them. He comes over for Christmas at our place and then everybody goes over to his place, his parents’ place, for Chinese New Year.”
Red paper with good wishes
It’s one of the most important celebrations of the year for many East Asian families, including those with Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean heritage.
Yan Li, an associate professor of East Asian studies at Renison University College at the University of Waterloo, said it is believed that putting up vibrant new years decorations can help attract good luck for the rest of the year.
“You can make paper cuts with animals or sometimes flowers and put them on windows or doors,” she said. “Higher up, there are red lanterns outside the door. You can also put writings on pieces of red papers and put them outside on the door frame with good wishes for the future.”
The Lunar New Year is also time to make and share delicious food.
Li said it is crucial to set up a large banquet for family members, including at least eight to 10 different dishes.
“Some items are necessary like boiled dumplings, chicken and fish,” she said. “Chicken in Chinese sounds same like the word ‘lucky’ or ‘fortune’. Fish in Chinese has the same pronunciation as ‘surplus’. So they were all good wishes for a family to have a good luck and surplus in money and food and everything.”
After filling up on that delicious banquet, the family will stay up all night spending time together.
Common activities traditionally included chatting with each other or playing games. These days, families are likely to watch special New Years Day shows featuring musicians, dancers and celebrity appearances.
The show usually ends right at midnight, officially marking the end of the Year of the Tiger.