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Chinese ‘Niu’ Year welcomes Year of the Ox

The Chinese Canadian Association of Yukon delivered parcels of treats to mark occasion by distance
Alfred Au, president of the Chinese Canadian Association of Yukon, delivers gift boxes to association members on Feb. 11 in the lead up to Chinese New Year. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)

Chinese New Year marks the transition from the Year of the Rat into the Year of the Ox, and perhaps better times ahead.

“For Chinese, we believe the year’s zodiac symbol will usually have a little bit of protection over that year,” said Alfred Au, president of the Chinese Canadian Association of Yukon.

“So, for this year, we will be looking at a calmer year instead of the more active year like last year with everything happening — hopefully this year, everything can settle down and things will start getting better.”

Chinese New Year lands on Feb. 12 this year. In pre-pandemic times, Au would organize a large dinner for the association’s 40-plus members. There would be a lion dance, a dragon dance and other performances.

This year, most households will celebrate the Lunar New Year at home, within their family bubble.

To reach out and mark the holiday by distance, Au delivered gift boxes containing traditional Chinese New Year goodies to Whitehorse homes this week. The gifts were imported from B.C. and contained crispy pastry dumplings, sesame ball cookies, ear biscuits and egg pastries.

The association has also encouraged its members to connect in lieu of a large event.

“Instead of physical connection we tried to do quite a bit of virtual connection,” Au said, noting that their WeChat message group has more than 180 members.

“Some of our members are doing a virtual New Year’s celebration with their friends and family … I think that’s actually turning out to be a new way of celebrating,” Au said.

The upcoming Year of the Ox marks the possibility of a calmer year because those are the characteristics of that zodiac animal, Au explained. People born in the Year of the Ox are generally considered strong, reliable, fair and calm.

Previous to the pandemic, many families living in the western regions of North America would travel home to celebrate Chinese New Year.

“That’s why we usually set up a big dinner celebration at Chinese New Year, families gather together to share and it’s almost like a Thanksgiving in China,” Au said.

“The ideas are similar: people gathering together, sharing their ups and downs and being thankful for the year.”

The Year of the Ox is pronounced “niu” in Chinese, so many people will wish each other a “Happy Niu Year” on Feb. 12 as an intersection of the Chinese and western new years greetings, Au said.

Contact Gabrielle Plonka at