Before 1980, most of the Chinese who came to Canada were from countries in the southeast of Canton and so the Chinese spoken was mainly Cantonese. This is just one of the many dialects spoken in China. Today, Cantonese and Mandarin are the two Chinese dialects most spoken in Canada.
Although the Chinese brought their own religious beliefs with them, about ten percent of Chinese immigrants had changed to Christianity by 1923. By 1961, close to sixty percent of Chinese Canadians were Christians. Buddhism and Islam were also important religions for Chinese people in Canada.
The Chinese hold many celebrations throughout the year. The most important one is the Chinese New Year. It usually is celebrated in February and is a time for settling debts and cleaning house. Red packets containing small amounts of money are given away, especially to children, and firecrackers are set off.
The Lantern Festival takes place on the 15th day of the New Year. Lanterns are hung in homes, along with symbols of good fortune, happiness and health.
The Ching Ming Festival falls in April and is also known as Remembrance of Ancestors Day. Chinese visit the graves of their loved ones and clear away the weeds.
One of the best known festivals, the Dragon Boat Festival, is usually celebrated in June. Boats from 45 to 120 feet long, and decorated with dragon's heads and tails race each other in competition. Paddlers keep in stroke to the beat of loud drums.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is a time for people to gather and watch the moon. As darkness falls, lanterns are lit and everyone enjoys moon cakes (a mix of ground lotus, mashed beans, sesame seeds and dates) while watching the rise of the large autumn moon.
The Winter Soltice Festival takes place on the longest night of the year (December 22 or 23). As people look forward to longer days, they visit with family and enjoy a yummy banquet.