Those familiar with Chinese New Year celebrations might think of exploding fireworks and colourful dancing lions. The celebrations are intense, lasting 15 days after the second moon of the winter solstice. Away from China, the festivities take on a different tone, slightly muted from the change of culture in cities such as Vancouver. In Merritt, the party dims further, and it’s certainly more relaxed than in China, but despite the distance, some Merritt residents are putting up their new calendars and shouting out “Gung Hay Fat Choy.”

Of the four Chinese restaurants in Merritt, Canada Cafe on Quilchena Ave. is putting together a special menu on Friday and Saturday from 5 – 8 p.m.

“We will be featuring barbecued duck. We’re bringing in Chinese sausages, and a bunch more,” said Sandy Tsang, co-owner of Canada Cafe, noting that other items include mussels in black bean sauce, salt and pepper prawns, barbecued ribs and hot and sour soup.

While Monday marked the Chinese New Year, the party continues until Feb. 6.

“We like to bring a little bit of our Chinese culture into Merritt,” she said. “We are handing out Chinese New Year calendars to our customers.”

She also hands out small red envelopes containing ‘lucky money’ to her employees. In traditional Chinese New Year celebrations, the older generations give to the younger people money and the younger generation give chocolates to the older crowd.

Tsang said Chinese New Year is becoming more important and celebrated in Canada, since a population growth in Canada containing people from China and other parts of Asia.

As in many cultures, food is a major part of celebrations. According to Don Ye of Tropico Spice on Nicola Ave., family get together on New Year’s Eve to feast.

“Everyone shares food the night before the new year at an open house,” he said. “And then there is a big party for 15 days and non-stop fireworks.”

Ye, who is from Singapore, said all of Southeast Asia celebrates Chinese New Year.

“The whole world just stops,” he said. “The Chinese work very hard but then they get a week off and just celebrate. The whole rest of the year, they are working.”

This Chinese New Year marks the ‘Year of the Dragon’, the most prosperous year of them all.

“The dragon is top-notch, right at the top of the food chain,” Tsang added. “Because of this, it is supposed to be a very prosperous time, a time when people will have very good luck.”