New Year's Day on the Western calendar prompts reflection of the past year, however Lunar New Year is anything but. Memories accumulated depict boisterous celebrations, vibrancy from every possible corner, and, undoubtedly the most pivotal aspect of a cultural celebration, scrumptious spreads of traditional dishes. Leading up to the day is a frenzy of preparatory activities, namely cleaning the house to welcome incoming good fortune; it is ̶o̶f̶t̶e̶n̶t̶i̶m̶e̶s̶ ̶ invariably my responsibility, and this year was no exception.
Glimmering gold and regal red, embellished with splashes of yellow, pink, and green chromatically characterize the event's decorations. Contrary to the stark gaudiness of New Year countdown sparkles and streamers, Chinese New Year has always felt more structured in comparison. In recent years, the celebration has been commonly renamed to Lunar New Year for the sake of inclusivity; that said, CNY persists as the personal reference of choice.
As opposed to our annual market visit tradition (whose streak was regrettably broken last year) and usual stopover at Summit Garden, the pandemic imposed modifications to the regular festivities.
Dining in was swapped for takeout and the market visit was eliminated. Several virtual livestreams were announced to enable celebrations from the comfort of one's home, though it would be an understatement to say that such provisions simply fell short of the spirit supply.
Many have likened the arrival of 2021 to that of change and new beginnings - a departure from the restrictions imposed by the previous year.
I had expressed remorse towards lost opportunities, slithered away involuntarily under the given circumstances. Looking back, it seems that new opportunities had emerged instead; amongst them were: breadmaking, DIY hair colour treatment, and virtual choreography learning, activities that would have otherwise remained unattempted with a standard work schedule and active social circle.
A recent conversation with the Thai ahgase sparked memories of airport encounters, had they proven fruitful or futile. In response to my bitterness regarding a lost ASTRO high-touch chance, she made me realize that, had I purchased those concert tickets, I wouldn't have bothered with the airport excursion. And had I not endured the painstaking wait that fateful snowy morning, we would not be acquaintances today.
With this in mind, I officially commence New Year preparations - Chinese New Year, that is.
And I shall gladly pre-celebrate with homemade Matcha 年糕 (nian gao), which was not made by me, for the record.)
Resolutions commencing from January 1st are overrated. When vision-shrouding thrills subside, reality dawns upon us once more, ̶a̶l̶l̶o̶w̶i̶n̶g̶ prompting us to act purposefully, constructively.
Recounting the past several days are perils of inefficiency at work, munching on more Bokksu snacks, and heavy precipitation resulting in the dreaded snow removal process that is shovelling.
Weekends these days are generally an extension of the regular work week, with the exceptions of errands replacing email correspondence and nonstop cooking in place of site visits. The 9-to-5 working hours hold consistent.
Sparse pockets of time are sometimes allocated towards baking projects, for the process enables creativity without fear of criticism for abandoning my post in the kitchen. Dried cranberries, raisins, and unsalted, roasted almonds had been obtained on the most recent grocery run, thus prompting the realization of Oatmeal Cookies.
An accidentally heavy handful of baking soda resulted in modest dryness, though the cookies remained suitable as a hearty breakfast item.
As an afternoon snack, it paired swell alongside the 8 Man English Pale Ale - a variety I had initially anticipated to prove as bitter as an IPA.
A quick round of cleaning took place before more errands. Oh, and hair-dying at home. For the very first time in my life.
The offer had been on the line for quite some time, but it wasn't until a certain prehistoric creature swung by to relieve me of my workload that the procedure properly materialized.
Consumed whilst awaiting the reveal of rose-tinged hair was Coffee Stout and a spice-laced cider gifted by my favourite fangirl.
Zero comments were extended towards my return to the real world with a mane of revived red. It was of no matter to me; I proceeded with my lunchtime excursions about the PATH for economical snacks, errands (yes, there is always more on the to-do list), and the Plant Positivity pop-up at Union Station.
It's been an unusually quiet (gloomy?) time in the house thus far, and I was reminded of Chinese New Year festivities only upon observing the floral Shiseido tunnel at Hudson's Bay.
Mid-week undertakings were scheduled to take place by Eglinton West: research results for low-budget physical activity pointed in the direction of free drop-in classes at York Recreation Centre. And nearby just so happened to be Seara Bakery, a colleague recommendation for Portuguese egg tarts.
Located in a sidewalk-less plaza near Keele and Lawrence, the bakery-café hybrid bore a great degree of similarity to SanRemo. That said, the seating area was roomier, significantly cleaner, and more pleasant overall. A double-sided laminated menu and napkin dispenser were positioned at every table; a cartoon-esque mural of the city adorned the south wall of the establishment
We took to sharing Crème Caramel as well as a single Nata - aka the primary purpose of the stopover.
Chinese New Year just doesn't feel complete without witnessing a Lion Dance or a visit from the 財神 (God of Wealth). Although we hadn't seen the bearded man clad in red at our yearly festival visit, we did manage to make it to Square One's Holt Renfrew for the jubilant performance.
A lion dance team with relatively young members had been invited for the occasion - one duo maneuvering the red dragon, and another a yellow one
Following the joyous event, we proceeded eastward for bingsoo. Needless to say, the idea had been wholly mine.
BNC Bakery had popped up on Insta-searches several times while researching bingsoo establishments in the vicinity. Too late had I discovered its long-time reign in Mississauga. Apparently, it had been around long before Snowies.
LunarFest last year was a bundle of cute games that succeeded in engaging kids (and kids at heart alike). The venue was compact, but the activities were festive and exciting.
This year's event took place at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga, as opposed to Metro Hall downtown.
The turnout was incredulous considering the accessiblity of parking and the fact that it had been lumped together with a slew of other Family Day activities.
With the emphasis as being a family-friendly day at the theatre, acitivities mainly comprised of paper lantern-making, Pyeongchang-themed headband cutouts, a mini campfire, and a talent show. Attendees had arrived not only for LunarFest, but a series of arts and crafts activities as well.
For participants over the age of five and without small children in tow, the event was concluded to be quite lacklustre overall. We had covered the grounds in under fifteen minutes.
I suggested venturing over to Square One to pass time, as I had made another appointment in the area and hadn't expected to have perused the LunarFest booths in such a short period of time. Oh, how I underestimated the volume of faux-shoppers on such a statutory holiday. Approximately twenty minutes was spent securing a parking spot, while another forty passed before the lineup at Tsujiri neared the cashier. (Ultimately, I wasn't able to purchase my ice cream before my departure.)
Needless to say, Playdium was in an equally tumultuous state.
It may have been imprudent of me to schedule such a busy series of outings considering that GOT7's comeback is just around the corner. The very notion of teasers has me frazzled, for it not only induces financial suffering, but emotional rollercoasters as well. With a pending world tour schedule and an unquestionably fantastic mini album in its final stages of production, one can only make futile efforts at reducing social activities in an attempt to conserve sanity - er, funds.
That said, I've taken to restricting excursions for the remainder of the month, with the sole exception of my lovely dongsaeng's four-day visit to the Great White North.
1) Recreating Fluffy Matcha Pancakes (over a new stove) with a slight ingredient modification. The results were equally as delectable as the first run.
2) Yonge and Eglinton is currently a commuting nightmare given the ongoing Eglinton LRT excavations and roadwork. Steer clear and beware of detours!
3) One Zo Tapioca officially has my heart.
4) Low-intensity weeknight badminton runs + post-exercise McD's run
5) Even after abundant trials at varying cake shops, Uncle Tetsu's Original Cheesecake retains its reign over all other fluffy/cheesy counterparts.
6) Breakfast snaps consisting of matcha lattes, hoddeok, sesame waffles, a Chocolate Hot Cross bun, and coffee-flavoured milk cartons.
7) CoCo runs are inevitable for this addict.
8) One Zo is a close contender: having stunned with its unique drink profile and chewy, housemade flavoured pearls, it has unexpectedly climbed up the list at lightning speed, even going as far as to question my loyalty to the orange-centred drink chain.
The drinks are unmistakably pricier - especially given that One Zo does not offer a VIP discount - so it's probably not a bad thing that its only locations reside in North York and Chinatown (latter yet to be visited).
9) Elegant paper cuttings from this year's Chinese New Year Market
10) Post-waiting Banango Burst to soothe one's soul and stomach - the 5-hour wait for ASTRO was not easy.
11) Trying Touch in Sol's No Poreblem Primer as a substitute for Shiseido's now-discountinued Refining Makeup Primer
12) Who limits chocolate to Valentine's Day?! Ferrero Rocher is a year-round fave in this household.
13) Chinese New Year visuals comprising of homemade Nian Gao (sticky rice cake) and sesame tangyuan (storebought this time).
I also made a festive attempt to bedazzle my Matcha Latte. The Cheese Tart from Lucullus wasn't bad either.
As a consequence of ASTRO's belated arrival at Pearson, the remainder of my Saturday afternoon plans had been discarded entirely.
The original plan was to attend a Chinese New Year Market following my return. This excursion was postponed to the next morning instead.
Attending the Chinese New Year Market is an annual tradition that succeeds in bringing out festive cheer and red-toned flair. Along with the regular spread of zodiac-themed merchandise, the team had added photo-ready props to the stage and a blanket of delicate string lights along the ceiling.
We stayed just past noon, just to catch a peek of the God of Wealth before departing for lunch. Sustenance in the form of vegetarian fare, wheel cakes, and hot/cold beverages were available for purchase at the venue, but the small portion sizes, long wait times (30 minutes for wagon wheels?!?), and previous dining experiences deterred us from dining.
View the full album HERE !
Chinese New Year celebrations are, admittedly, kind of a big deal. While enormous family gatherings take place on Thanksgiving and jolly cheer is spread during Christmas time, this holiday combines the joy (and meal sizes) of both for a wholly loud and festive time.
Nowadays, the fifteen-day holiday commonly adopts the more inclusive name of "Lunar New Year", as those of Korean, Vietnamese, and Malaysia descent take part in celebrations as well. Rituals tend to vary across countries, and even more so between the Northern and Southern parts of China, as well as in Hong Kong and Taiwan. For example, Northerners may partake in dumpling feasts while those from the South employ whole fish and barbecued dishes.
Festivities kick off after an evening of cleaning the house, commencing with a family dinner celebrating the theme of unity.
Attending Chinese New Year Markets is another activity that allows the complete immersion of oneself in a cheerful, bustling atmosphere. Most decorations will don a lavish coat of bright red with highlights of shimmering gold.
Traditional markets are held outdoors and comprise of vendors retailing various food items, New Year plants, ornaments, balloons, and other relevant knickknacks of sorts. The one that earns our annual attendance is more compact and held in the basement of a temple, making the experience significantly warmer.
View the full album HERE !
One would imagine that someone who spent the past two days in their entirety engaging in social activities would prefer to stay in for the next few upcoming days, especially if that person happens to be a natural introvert.
In my case, it's true. Or it was anyway. After attempting some of blogilates' older exercise videos, I realized that I had placed a significant amount of strain on my wrists, with the reduced range of motion becoming notably evident when playing badminton. An urgent call to the chiropractor landed me with an appointment during supposedly off-peak hours, followed by a trip to the bubble tea shop that's been making waves since their soft and grand openings: The Alley.
Joining Commerce Gate's flourishing bubble tea community (ie. Chatime and CoCo) is The Alley, which features a rustic, cozy atmosphere and, occasionally, flavoured tapioca pearls. (Rumour has it that the black sesame pearls are only available after 8:30 pm, for reasons beyond me.)
In addition to the standard array of milk teas and tea lattes (ie. those crafted with real milk as opposed to milk powder), the menu also includes a special selection of six beverages - all of which are promoted at the cashier in both English and Chinese. While I do find the names innovative, little is said about the exact contents of each beverage in titles.
My first reaction to the gradually expanding lineup forming at the front is amazement combined with sheer perplexity. Mid-afternoon hours on a weekday should technically be on the quiet side, but the antler-themed franchise seemed to be doing quite well.
While waiting in line, I was offered a sample of their Royal No. 9 Milk Tea. According to the plastic glove-clad (thank you for maintaining some degree of hygiene!) staff member, it's the store's top seller and is concocted from an Assam variety roasted with blueberries. The fruity berry aftertaste was decently strong when tasted in the sample, so I opted to try a Regular-sized version. A tad pricier than CoCo but yet to reach Grotto's new tags, the Regular set me back by $5.00 (or slightly over $6.00 after taxes and the inclusion of tapioca). The Large would have rung in at a base price of $5.50.
Chinese New Year is a substantially celebrated event among most East Asian cultures - it's kind of a big deal, really.
While the remainder of the city will go about their normal lives, there's always a place that ensures that the spirit of the upcoming Lunar New Year is felt indefinitely.
Fo Guang Shan Temple is a Buddhist temple located in Streetsville, at the northwest end of Mississauga.
Though I seldom visit throughout the rest of the year, an annual visit is usually paid to the basement level of the building around Chinese New Year as a result of the various festive activities planned during the week.
Decked out with red and gold decorations - the colours of luck and prosperity - the area is transformed into a buzzing CNY market and performance stage. Along with numerous food stalls offering meat-less nourishment (it is a Buddhist temple after all) and vendors selling supposedly lucky ornaments and home decor items, Dragon Dances and a brief appearance by the God of Wealth (財神) also take place at specified times during the day.
Who Am I?
Formerly an avid owner of several interest-based portals, Random Thoughts of a Quirky Blogger presents precisely the elements expected. From experiments in the kitchen to miscellaneous musings, from IGOT7 reflections to developments in transportation infrastructure, it's all consolidated here. Welcome to the raw, unfiltered side of Quirky Aesthetics.