Over a thousand people from the UBC community and beyond celebrated the Year of the Rabbit at the UBC Botanical Garden’s first-ever Lunar New Year Market last weekend.
Local vendors and community members filled the garden’s reception centre, selling handmade goods, fitting attendees with traditional hanfus (traditional Chinese robes), offering hot tea and brush-painting red banners with the Chinese characters for ‘good fortune’ and ‘happy new year.’
Ariel Yu, the event organizer, said one of her goals was to keep the event inclusive for members of different cultures, so decided to call it “Lunar New Year” rather than “Chinese New Year.” Many other Asian countries and ethnicities within China celebrate their own versions of Lunar New Year, including Tibet, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, India, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia — though some follow different calendars.
Yu said she wanted to make the event accessible to both UBC students and University Neighbourhoods Association members, since most Lunar New Year events take place in and around Chinatown, with few celebrations closer to campus. As it turns out, the city came to UBC this year.
Among the vendors at the market were several current and former UBC students.
Sarah Cortez, who graduated from UBC in 2020 with a degree in economics and international relations, said, “It’s been really cool to come back as an alumni and mingle with current UBC students.”
She now runs Ellie’s Market, which she founded with her sister when the pandemic hit. They sell custom embroidery, pins and cute animal stationery.
“It’s great to see these kinds of events that really promote our talent and diversity,” Cortez said.
Perhaps the highlight of the market was the Lion Dance performed by the UBC Kung Fu Association.
Student performers under a bright red lion costume danced to the beat of a drum, snaking through the audience and into the reception centre where the lion “ate” a piece of lettuce hanging from the ceiling.
Traditional lion dances consist of giving out luck to vendors and the rest of the venue, explained Kung Fu Association president Bryn Spiller-Tisserand. They are typically used to kick off the event on a good note.
This year’s Lunar New Year Market continued to hit those high notes from start to finish.
Yu, who is also an administrative assistant at the Botanical Garden, was also the one who pitched the idea to the Garden in the first place. She recalled thinking, “What can we do for January? It’s kind of quiet in the garden — how about Lunar New Year? And it was a good idea.”
However, the market had an even further reach than Yu originally anticipated, reaching beyond campus and into the wider Vancouver community.
“The turnout today is much larger than we expected,” said Yu. In the few days leading up to the event, the Botanical Garden had sold about 900 tickets. By Saturday morning, over 1,200 tickets were sold.
“It’s kind of surreal, just because starting it seemed like a small idea.”
As a member of the Asian community herself, organizing the event has had a deeper meaning to Yu.
“My goal in the beginning was … to use this event as a platform to help and showcase local vendors,” she said. “And it makes sense for me to be the one that does it.”
“I’m very happy that I can set that [precedent].”