Celebrating light and hope in a time of darkness is the theme of Gateway Theatre’s Lunar New Year celebrations this year.
The theatre’s “Into the Light” exhibition, taking place in February, includes an immersive walk-through experience that tells the story of how Lunar New Year rituals and customs came into being.
According to Stephanie Wong, co-creator of the exhibit, Into the Light tells the story of how villagers used several traditional decorations to drive away a mythical sea monster called Nian, which represented darkness and evil in the Asian folklore.
Nian, said Wong, would come up from the ocean once a year and attacks nearby villages. One year, an old sage offered to ward away the monster if the village gave him shelter for the night.
He spent the night placing red-coloured items around the village and prepared lanterns and firecrackers. When Nian arrived at the village, the bright red colour, the lights and the sound of the firecrackers scared it off.
As a result, the tradition of wearing red, setting off firecrackers and lighting lanterns has been passed down to drive away the darkness or evil during Lunar New Year.
Wong told the Richmond News that Richmond-based artist Marina Szijarto and her wanted to give visitors an experience of being surrounded by these visuals and sounds rather than presenting a typical storytelling situation.
“The story was so compelling to us because it’s really (about) finding the light in dark times, which is something we’ve been doing these past two years during the pandemic,” said Wong.
“We wanted to find a way to kind of bring that magic and that light to an experience that people could be immersed in and experience through the Gateway Theatre.”
After visitors emerge from the exhibit, they are invited to a craft station where they can make their own paper lantern. The lantern can then be hung on a community display or taken home. Families also have the choice to take the lantern kits home.
Wong told the Richmond News that the lantern is believed to bring good luck to the home.
“As an artist, there’s something about the practice of creating something … tactile and tangible and making a lantern is like giving people the tools to make their own light during this time.”
The exhibit is taking place 5 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 18 and 1 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 19, 20.
Gateway Theatre’s Into the Light exhibit is $28 for adults and $18 for children 17 and under. Tickets can be bought from https://bit.ly/3fE2jGo