K-W’s Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year-Heather Davidson

People gathered in Kitchener to celebrate Chinese New year this past weekend (Photo by Heather Davidson)

“It’s fun. It’s lots of work,” said Stephanie Hong, communication and public relation coordinator for the Fo Guang Shan Temple.

On Feb.9 the newly established Fo Guang Shan Buddha’s Light Temple hosted events throughout the day to celebrate traditional Chinese New Year for the first time with the local Chinese community. The events led up to midnight, when the calendar entered the year of the snake.

Over the years the people affiliated with the Fo Guang Shan Buddha’s Light Temple have had to travel all the way to the temple in Mississauga to practice their spiritual rituals and take part in the Chinese New Year’s festivities.

Kim, a 14-year-old volunteer who did not give her last name, recalled that she had been attending the Fo Guang Shan temple in Mississauga since she was a little girl. “Now this centre opened up and it’s closer to Guelph where I live, so it’s easier to come here and meet new people,” she said.

The New Year’s celebrations differ greatly from how it is in China to Waterloo. In places like Hong Kong people receive vacation time during the Chinese New Year, but this doesn’t happen in western culture. The few days when everyone gathers together are extremely important to the people involved.

“I had that kind of home feeling. It was so happy, but when I was in Hong Kong I didn’t get that feeling,” Hong recollected.

“Chinese New Year is very important. Just like the Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years to westerners,” explained Venerable Jue Qian of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple of Greater Toronto. “The events that we have for these two days [are] this main shrine here where people can come to do the offering of the incense. They can offer the fruits, flowers and they can pick the wishing words to see what message the Buddhist gave to them.”

After the New Year’s Eve events are concluded the New Years Day maintains its own traditions. At the temple in Kitchener, visitors chanted during the morning and burned incense, which is the most significant tradition held in the Fo Guang Shan temple. Qian said that, “People squeeze in to make their first offering.”

Another tradition on New Year’s Day is for people to gather with their families and eat a vegetarian meal together. It is vegetarian because it is believed that abstaining from meat will show compassion and welcome the New Year properly.

When discussing how the temple is handling their first year of hosting such an important event Hong said, “I enjoy it. In the past few days I’ve been working 12 to 14 hour days. Last night I was talking to another volunteer and said ‘you know what, I don’t feel tired. I don’t know why. Perhaps [it’s] that kind of faith or maybe the happiness. I am so energetic; I don’t want to go home.”

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