MONTREAL -- In years past, the garden and fountain area of the Holiday Inn in Chinatown would be bustling today, full of visitors in town to celebrate the Lunar New Year. This year, the scene is quiet, and festivities are muted because of the pandemic.

Xianshu Huang would normally host concerts and other festivities to celebrate the New Year, but the president of the Montreal Chinese Culture and Arts Foundation says this year, organizers had to find creative ways to celebrate the Year of the Ox virtually. 

“For the Chinese Lunar New Year the Year of the Ox is a lucky year, a good year, because the characteristics of the Ox is ‘hard-work without complaint’,” she said. “And it’s brave enough to embrace the challenge and overcome the difficulty and that's why we want to celebrate, it's really hope for a New Year.”

Tonight she’s hosting a fundraising concert on Youtube, and Liberal MP Alexandra Mendes is expected to speak at the online event. 

“The Chinese community, particularly here in Brossard [where] we have the largest Chinese community in Quebec, has been extremely resilient through all in the face of lots of difficulties,” Mendes said. 

She says while in previous years a Lunar New Year celebration is held on Parliament Hill, this year it had to be cancelled. 

It’s also a big change for many families, who would traditionally celebrate the Lunar New Year over a meal. 

“Usually for Chinese New Year we'd be getting together as a whole family and it would be 10-12 people” said Eric Ku. He and his brother Edmund are cooking takeout meals this year at Dobe and Andy Restaurant. They say some families are opting to celebrate with a family feast over Zoom. 

On the menu this year, they’re serving noodles, which Eric explains are a symbol of longevity, They are also including dishes that aren’t on their regular menu. 

“We also have oxtail,” he said. “We usually don't do it but because it’s the Year of the Ox we want to do something different and special for the customers.”

Ku says while he learned a lot during the Year of the Rat, he’s hoping for better days ahead, in the Year of the Ox. 

“Getting all these good vibes into your body and hoping for a good year.”