An early photo of Vernon’s Chinatown, taken in the lunar year 4608 (1910).

Chinese New Year 2022

This Tuesday, February 1, marks Chinese New Year. 2022 is a Year of the Tiger, and those born under this zodiac are said to be ambitious, daring, enthusiastic, generous, and self-confident.

This festival is celebrated each year in China (as well as Vietnam, North and South Korea, and Tibet, under different names) and is based on the ancient Chinese lunar calendar (as opposed to the western solar calendar). Each month in the lunar calendar is 28 days long, so a year lasts between 353 and 355 days. Determining the date of the Chinese New Year requires some complicated calculations, but it typically occurs on the second new moon after the winter solstice, either in late January or early February. A variety of beliefs and traditions are attached to this special occasion.

A celebration 100 years ago

In 1922, a reporter from the Vernon News was granted the honour of attending a Chinese New Year celebration in Vernon’s Chinatown. That year, the festival fell on Saturday, January 28. He started off by saying that although the celebration was great fun, he hoped it would be the last for a while, since with Christmas, the Solar New Year, Robbie Burns’ Night, and the Lunar New Year all occurring in a little over a month, many of Vernon’s business men were struggling to get back on the “Water Wagon.”

Decorations of red and gold

To celebrate the occasion, Chinatown was wonderfully decorated with strings of fruits, vegetables, and gold-and-red emblems. (Tangerines, mandarins, and kumquats, in particular, are a popular decoration for Chinese New Year, as they are said to symbolize wealth and good luck. In a similar manner, the colours red and gold are symbolic of joy and prosperity, respectively). The reporter also noted that genuine “greenbacks,” dollar bills, had also been used to decorate.

Ringing in the New Year

A thrilling performance was held in the center of a square in Chinatown, including acrobatic and magical acts, and of course the celebrated Chinese Dragon Dance (distinguishable from the Lion Dance in that is requires a larger group to manipulate the creature).

The reporter remarked on the hospitality of the crowd, and a lucky number of Vernonites who were later invited to a somewhat-secretive New Year’s feast hosted by one of Chinatown’s leading business owners loudly praised the generosity of their host. The final moments of the lunar year 4619 exploded in firecrackers and fireworks, as a new Year of the Dog was ushered in.

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

 

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

 

A snapshot of the S.A. Shatford “Economy Sale” advertisement in the Vernon News on Boxing Day of 1913.
The remainder of the 1913 advertisement.

Why is the day after christmas called boxing day?

The exact origins of the term are unknown, but it first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1833. However, it may be traced back as early as the tenth century, to the story of Saint Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia, known for his acts of charity and immortalized in the carol “Good King Wenceslas.” Other theories suggest that the term comes from the British tradition of distributing boxes filled with small gifts and food, or the contents of church collection boxes, to those in need on the day after Christmas.

Whatever the true story may be, the more modern notion of Boxing Day as a shopping holiday seems to be in contradiction with its origins. It is perhaps for this reason that, unlike here in B.C., most retailers in Atlantic Canada and Northern Ontario are prohibited from opening that day. 

Clearing out Christmas Stock

That being said, Boxing Day sales have been a tradition for quite some time, as a way to clear out leftover Christmas stock. For instance, on December 26, 1913, the S.A. Shatford General Store in Vernon hosted an “Economy Sale;” an accompanying advertisement in the Vernon News stated that “profits, costs, values, all have been disregarded in this great merchandise event. We simply desire to reduce our stock all possible during the holiday season.”

Meanwhile, the term “Boxing Day” did not start being used in the Vernon News until the 1920s; in 1929, the newspaper advertised a Boxing Day Dance at the Eldorado Arms Hotel in Kelowna.

Shopping Holiday

Since then, Boxing Day’s shopping frenzy has only intensified, and in Canada it is one of the highest revenue-generating days for retailers (third only to Black Friday and the Friday before Christmas).

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator