Explore: Burns Day, mammoth party, Chinese New Year festivities

Raise your glass, tuck into some haggis, join in a commemoration or enjoy a concert as Victorians pause to celebrate Robbie Burns at various events this weekend.

Robert Burns was only 37 when he died in 1796, but his poetry has endured over hundreds of years. Burns Suppers (featuring haggis, of course) take place all round the world on or near Jan. 25, his birthday.

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Known as Scotland’s national poet, Burns wrote 500 poems in the language of ordinary people, celebrating love, nature and the funny aspects of life. His poems speak of a strong love of Scotland, a love that has been reciprocated.

An granite memorial, with a bronze statue of Burns and his muse, Highland Mary, was erected in Beacon Hill Park by Victoria’s Scots community more than 100 years ago.

Locally designed and built, the memorial originally included a drinking fountain. The pipes failed in the 1950s and weren’t replaced, but the lion’s head and basin remains.

Events planned include:

Friday

• Robbie Burns Dinner at the Cook Street Activity Centre includes a piper and entertainment. There will be an address to the haggis, followed by a dinner consisting of haggis (or ham) salad, rutabaga and carrot mix and mashed potatoes. Scottish shortbread, tea or coffee follows (beer-tasting is extra).

The meal costs $15, $12 for members and $7.50 for youth. It runs noon to 2:30 p.m. Friday at the Cook Street Activity Centre, 380 Cook St. For more information, go to cookstreetvillageactivitycentre.com.

Saturday

• Burns Day at Craigdarroch Castle. Where better to celebrate the day than in a Scottish castle? Get your tartan on for an afternoon of bagpipes, an address to the haggis and haggis tasting. Entertainment will be provided by Celtic band Cookeilidh, who will perform two sets of lively Kilt-ic music.

Admission to the castle is $14.85 for adults, $13.85 for seniors, $9.75 for students and $5.35 for children. Admission includes all festivities and entertainment. The event runs 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the castle, 1050 Joan Cres. For more information, go to thecastle.ca.

Sunday

• Burns Commemoration at the Burns Memorial Statue in Beacon Hill Park (across from the petting zoo) includes a wreath-laying, piping of Scottish tunes and a recitation of one of Burns’ poems. Sprigs of heather tied in a ribbon will be handed to everyone who attends. The event, which is free to join, runs from 1:45 to 2:15 p.m.

• The Robbie Burns Celebration at Brentwood Bay’s Centre for Active Living includes a parade in and salute to the haggis with Bob Williamson, along with performances by Knackers Yard and Scottish Country Dancers.

Refreshments, sandwiches and goodies are available. The event is $20 for guests and $15 for members and runs 1:30 to 5 p.m., Sunday at the Centre for Active Living, 1229 Clarke Rd. in Brentwood Bay (next to the library). For more information, go to centralsaanicseniorscentre.org.

• At St. Andrew’s Kirk Hall on Sunday afternoon, a Robbie Burns concert features Highland and Scottish country dancing and a Gaelic Choir. A tea and social will follow. Admission is by donation. The concert runs 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at 680 Courtney St.

Lion Dance welcomes Chinese New Year

Say Gung Hay Fat Choy (Happy New Year) at a Chinese New Year celebration on Sunday in Chinatown, followed by a banquet on Feb.1.

The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association is sponsoring a Lion Dance performance on Sunday afternoon to ring in the Year of the Rat. A kung fu demonstration will take place shortly after.

The rat is the first animal in the 12-year Chinese zodiac. According to Chinese mythology, the Jade Emperor held a competition to decide the zodiac animals to include in the calendar, saying their placement would be determined by the order in which they reached his palace.

According to folklore, the quick-witted rat asked the ox for a ride across a river to the palace. Upon reaching the shore, the rat jumped down and reached the palace just before the ox, becoming the first of the zodiac animals.

At Sunday’s event, the lion will visit local merchants who hang up offerings, bringing those businesses good luck and prosperity for the year ahead.

The Lion Dance is performed by instructors and volunteers, with proceeds from the event used to continue teaching the traditional dance and kung fu in Victoria.

The event is free to join. It runs noon to 3 p.m. Sunday at the Gates of Harmonious Interest, on Fisgard Street between Government and Store streets.

Dress for the weather as the event is outdoors and will take place rain or shine. For more information, go to hungfut.ca.

• The Victoria Chinatown Lioness Club is hosting a Chinese New Year banquet, Feb. 1 at the Golden City Restaurant. The banquet features an eight-course Chinese meal, raffle baskets and live and silent auctions.

The event, in its 26th year, is the largest fundraiser of the year for the service club.

Tickets are $50. The event starts at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1 at Golden City Restaurant, 721 Fisgard St. Tickets are available from Pat Hannah, 250-216-2705, Gayle Chong, 778-678-2773 or Amanda Mills, 250-727-0222. For more information, go to victoriachinatownlioness.com.

Woolly gets a mammoth birthday party

He roamed the Earth during the last Ice Age, about 400,000 years ago. On Sunday, Woolly the Mammoth, that iconic symbol of the Royal B.C. Museum, will celebrate his 40th anniversary in Victoria with a Mammoth Birthday Party.

Woolly has endeared himself to more than 10 million visitors from around the world since he moved into the museum’s natural history gallery when it officially opened in December 1979.

According to a museum blog post, Woolly is based on a skeleton discovered in an Illinois peat bog in 1931 and later moved to the Nebraska State Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska. His body was constructed from Styrofoam blocks glued together and supported with a framework of wood and metal.

His top coat was created from nine Arctic muskox skins, while his tusks are fibreglass replicas from casts made of a pair borrowed from the Centennial Museum in Vancouver (now the Vancouver Museum).

Sunday’s event will celebrate Woolly’s passage from ice age to middle age with music, crafts, an educational animation station and an hourly chance to win one of five stuffed Woollies.

The event is included in museum admission or membership. It runs from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday in the Natural History Gallery of the museum at 675 Belleville St. For more information, go to royalbcmuseum.bc.ca.

Forest therapy isn’t just a walk in the forest

Don’t just go for a walk, take the Forest Therapy Walk to get you out of your head, to get to know yourself better and to learn to switch to a more relaxed state, Saturday at Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary.

Forest therapy is a concept based on the Japanese practice of shinrin yoku (forest bathing). It is a practice of immersing yourself in nature (or, more specifically, the forest) to connect in a deep, mindful way that results in inner and outer healing.

A forest therapy walk isn’t just a walk in the forest — it’s a slow, intentional journey that engages our senses, allowing for deep healing and connection.

In forest therapy, the guide opens the door — but nature is the therapist.

The cost of the two-and-a-half-hour workshop is $44 for the public and $40 for members. It runs 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary, 3873 Swan Lake Rd. For more information, go to swanlake.bc.ca.

Broken appliances furniture, tools, bikes welcome at Repair Café

Don’t toss that non-functioning or broken household item — take it to the Fairfield Repair Café, Saturday at Fairfield Community Place.

Save money, save our landfills and maybe even save the world by taking furniture, appliances, electronics, clothes, tools or bicycles to be repaired. If you can carry it in, they might be able to fix it.

Sit back and watch, or jump in and learn how to do it yourself.

The original repair café started in 2009 in Amsterdam. Since then, the concept has spread around the world.

The repair is free, but donations are gratefully accepted.

Participants are asked not to bring plants, animals, dangerous goods or valuable items.

The event runs 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Fairfield Community Place, 1330 Fairfield Rd. (next to Moss Street Market and Sir James Douglas Elementary School). For more information, go to repaircafevicbc.ca.

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