Feasts and family; celebrating the Lunar New Year in St. George

ST. GEORGE – Yiwen (Kevin) Zhang is a little tired. The night before, Jan. 31, he had celebrated the lunar new year, an important holiday for many east, and south, Asian cultures. Zhang had been feasting and speaking with his family in China until late. “We were Skyping and there were lots of phone calls,” Zhang smiles, “with all of my relatives.” Zhang has lived in Canada for 21 years, eight of them in St. George.

If he had been in China, he would have “given gifts to my parents and older relatives,” Zhang says. He says his culture is based on respect for elders. “We don’t buy presents for children. We give them money in red envelopes.”

Zhang’s St. George store, Video Ville and Asian Grocery, is usually open until 9 p.m., but he closed early Monday to celebrate with his family. Prior to COVID, he would invite friends over to join the festivities. This year it was just his wife and their three daughters ages four, six, and eight.

The girls had new outfits for the special day. “The eldest girl had previously been in China for new year. She was really excited,” says Zhang.

The family decorated with red lanterns for the festivities. But the highlight was the food. “In my culture, the food is the most important thing,” says Zhang. “I made 12 dishes.”

He is from the Shandong province in eastern China on the Yellow Sea. “The food you have depends on which province you are from.

“Each dish means something.”

Zhang prepared chicken, pork, sea food, vegetables, soup, and dumplings. “Dumplings are our specialty,” says Zhang. “We used to put a coin in them. The coins had been washed. But now we put in a candy or a chocolate,” he explains. “It brings luck to the person who gets it!” At his house, it was “all the kids” who were lucky.

Twenty-twenty-two is the year of the water tiger, which occurs every 60 years. When asked what the year of the tiger means to him, Zhang answered, “It brings health and hope; the most important things.”