Burnaby News Leader story: Gung Haggis Fat Choy combines two cultures

Check out this front page lead story in Sunday's Burnaby News Leader

Gung Haggis Fat Choy combines two cultures

 
 
MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER

Todd
Wong, aka Toddish McWong, is getting ready to celebrate Gung Haggis Fat
Choy, a convergence of Robbie Burns Day and Chinese New Year that he
cooked up while trying to come up with an idea for “a really good house
party” when he was a student at Simon Fraser University.

By Katie Robinson

NewsLeader Staff

Todd
Wong – often dubbed Toddish McWong – never thought in a million years
he, a fifth-generation, Chinese-Canadian, would ever be wearing a
Scottish kilt. But then life threw him a curveball, resulting in Gung
Haggis Fat Choy.

The Chinese New Year celebrates good fortunes for the new year and
honours Heaven and Earth, as well as the family. Robbie Burns Day is a
Scottish celebration, giving praise to the great literary works of
Robert Burns. And Gung Haggis Fat Choy is a combination of the two.

In Jan. 1993, Simon Fraser University (SFU) was struggling to find
volunteers to help with its annual Robbie Burns Day celebration. One of
the committee members approached Wong, then a psychology student and
university tour guide, requesting his assistance.
Wong declined.

“What? A Chinese guy wearing a kilt? That's strange – that's weird,” he said of his initial reaction.

The more he thought about it though, the more he realized this
might not be such a bad idea after all. Once he began flipping the
stereotypes, and drawing parallels between Simon Fraser – of Scottish
ancestry – and himself, he realized he might actually be embarking on a
potentially wonderful experience.

“Simon Fraser had never been to Scotland, and at the time I was a
fifth-generation, Chinese-Canadian, who had never been to China,” Wong
said, while standing on the steps of SFU's Convocation Mall.

The Chinese New Year fell just two days before Robbie Burns Day
that particular year. Wong couldn't pass up that opportunity to combine
the two cultures into one celebration – he agreed to wear the kilt.

But it wasn't until 1998 that Gung Haggis Fat Choy was truly born.

Wong invited 16 friends – both Scottish-Canadian and
Chinese-Canadian – to a dinner with the intentions of merging the two
holidays once again. He researched Robbie Burns Day, and prepared the
feast of various Chinese and Scottish delicacies, including the Burns'
Day traditional treat of haggis.

“Gung Haggis Fat Choy is an intersection of the Scottish-Canadian heritage, and the Chinese-Canadian heritage,” Wong said.

“We're creating a whole new Canadian society that we're dubbing the Gung Haggis Clan.”

The annual event has doubled in size every year since that first
feast. No longer is it just a group of close friends in a small dining
room, now it's expanded to hundreds of people filling the capacity of
large restaurants.

This year's event is even more special though because Wong is bringing it back to SFU.

In an attempt to unite the university's large Asian community with
its Scottish heritage, SFU intramural coordinator Geoff Vogt looked to
Wong for assistance. The inaugural Gung Haggis Fat Choy Canadian games
will be celebrated on Jan. 28 at noon in Convocation Mall. It will
feature traditional Scottish Highland elements, Chinese sporting
elements and a dragon-boat race on drylands.

“When we started this thing, we were just trying to deal with a
really good house party. I never imagined it would get this huge,” Wong
said.

“It makes me happy that so many people are enjoying Gung Haggis
Fat Choy. We finally have racial equality, and we're finally able to
celebrate our heritage in ways we haven't before.”

With the popularity of Gung Haggis on the rise, Wong is looking to
the future. He hopes living rooms everywhere will some day be filled
with people celebrating Gung Haggis Fat Choy, guzzling drams of whisky,
reciting Burns' poetry, and dipping Haggis Wun-Tun in maple syrup.  krobinson@newwestnewsleader.com

see my recollection of the interview with reporter Katie Robinson and phtographer Mario Bartel.

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