Chinese new year Canadian style
VANCOUVER, Canada, Jan 20, 2004 - New stamps, commemorative coins and even a cheque book designed with feng shui elements have been brought out in honor of the more than one million Chinese-Canadians who will celebrate this week's arrival of the Year of the Monkey.
The Canadian post office printed almost 10 million stamps featuring the monkey king from a popular 16th century Chinese fairy tale, embossed with a clear holographic foil to suggest the figure has magical capabilities. "They've been very popular," said Canada Post spokesman Bob Taylor, dismissing critics who charge that using the fictional monkey is akin to using Mickey Mouse to celebrate the Year of the Rat. More than 12,000 Canadian dollars' (9,250 US dollars) worth of the stamps was sold in an hour after going on sale January 8 in Vancouver, nearly a fifth of whose population is of Chinese descent.
They are, however, less sought after than Year of the Tiger stamps which increased in value from 25 dollars (19 US dollars) per sheet to more than 100 (77 US dollars) within six months of their issue seven years ago, the second of 12 in the series. Year of the Dragon stamps were also very popular, Taylor said.
The Royal Canadian Mint produced almost 70,000 sterling silver coins featuring the clever monkey in an octagonal gold-plated cameo surrounded by Chinese astrology's dozen animal symbols, including the ox, horse, and pig. It also produced a few thousand 18-karat gold hologram coins for serious collectors, both designed by Toronto artist Harvey Chan who immigrated from Hong Kong as a teenager. The coins have a 15 dollar (11.5 US dollar) and 150 dollar (115 US dollar) face value, but are selling for 83.88 dollars (64.59 US dollars) and 398.88 dollars (307 US dollars) respectively.
Canada's oldest and largest cheque provider Davis and Henderson Inc. printed a limited series of personalized cheques aimed at Chinese-Canadians for the first time this year. On them, a gold border denotes money, red blossoms signify good fortune, and a monkey in the background commemorates the new year. It is the first cheque produced in North America for a particular culture, said marketing director Loryn Lux. Davis and Henderson, provider of cheques to Canadian institutions since 1875, hired a Chinese cultural consultant, researched Chinese traditions and horoscopes before designing the cheques.
"Chinese-Canadians place great value on their ancient culture and traditions," Lux said. "This unique cheque design honours that great cultural heritage, and gives them a unique and practical means of expressing it." Bank customers in Vancouver's Chinatown waiting in long lines to empty their savings to spend on new year celebrations were unanimously pleased with the design. The cheques can be personalized to include a person's last name in Chinese characters or animal corresponding to the year the person was born. The cheques went on sale January 9 at most major Canadian banks.
Not just Chinese-Canadians are celebrating, however.
At the Chinese Cultural Centre in Vancouver, Caucasian parents of adopted Chinese children gathered to celebrate the new year in advance this weekend. Nearly 100 families watched lion dancers, ate Chinese cuisine and listened to a Chinese orchestra. "It's part of the commitment made when you adopt children from China to preserve the culture. The children are Chinese and they need to know what that means," said Helen Lingham, who brought her six-year-old daughter Kailee. It is easy to raise her in Vancouver because of the blend of eastern and western cultures, she said. Both are looking forward to a parade and variety show later this week.
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