The Province: “Getting jiggy with the Irish”
includes interview with Gung Haggis dragon boat team
Haggis Fat Choy parade team being photographed by the Province
(photographer Jason is outside the picture). Paddlers are facing
backwards just for the picture. Todd Wong at drum, Dave Samis with
paddle, Da Ming Zhao with dragon puppet, Aefa Mulholland with little
Lion head mask, Ann McQueen with red scarf – photo Deb Martin
Multiculturalism was the sub-theme at the 3rd annual Vancouver St. Patrick's Day Parade. Immediately after our Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat float
turned onto Dunsmuir St., marking the finish of the parade route, I was
approached by Kent Spencer, Province reporter, who was amazed at our
colourful parade entry.
I introduced Spencer to team members Da Ming Zhao (born in China) and Aefa Mulholland (born in Glasgow), explaining that the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team
is very inclusive. Da Ming loves it because he has learned so
much about Canadian culture and meets non-Chinese Canadians, as well as
5th-generation Chinese Canadians as myself.
“My White-Canadian girlfriend claims that we don't have an
intercultural relationship because we are both multigenerational
Canadians,” I shared with Kent. “And all my maternal cousins have
married non-Chinese partners. And one of my cousins is a First
Nations Chief, Rhonda Larrabee of Qayqayt First Nations, whose father was my grandmother's older brother, and her mother was from the New Westminster Band.
I also explained the tradition of Gung Haggis Fat Choy, my Robbie Burns Chinese New Year dinner, now blending Scots and Chinese traditions for 9 years.
Da Ming and Aefa, gave Spencer their views on how inclusive Vancouver
is about different ethnic cultures. They both felt that it's very
appropriate that St. Patrick's Day parade is a multicultural parade
with South Asian bangra dancers, and Celtic pipe bands. Aefa
lived in Dublin for 12 years, and didn't see many Asians in St.
Patrick's Day celebrations over there, while this was the first time Da
Ming had ever attended a St. Patrick's Day parade before, feeling that
this is a good way to learn about many different cultures.
Ann McQueen, new to the team, explained that St. Patrick was
responsible for bringing Christianity to Ireland. How wondefully
apropos, since my great-great-grandfather Rev. Chan Yu Tan, was a pioneer missionary bringing Christianity to Chinese in Canada with the Methodist Church of Canada.
Reporter Kent Spencer interviews “Toddy O'Wong” about the Gung Haggis
Fat Choy float in the St. Patrick's Day parade – joining us is another
kilted parade participant – photo Deb Martin.
see The Province
Getting Jiggy with the Irish
Record Turnout: Ethnic hues mix with green of St. Paddy's parade
by Kent Spencer
page A4, March 20, 2006
Irish green for the third annual St. Patrick's Day downtown parade was
mixed yesterday with ethnic hues: a Chinese dragon boat, traditional
Indo-Canadian Bhangra dacners and Brazillians swaying to sambas.
“This parade is inclusive,” said Celtic Fest spokeswoman Julia
Markus. “It is so quintessentially Vancouver… It's a tradition
we're going to encourage.”
Crowds lined five-deep along Granville Street from Drake to
Dunsmuir. Organizers “guess-timated” that up to 100,000 people
watched, topping last year's 60,000.
“When Vancouver gets two minutes of sunshine, everybody is out in
shorts,” said Markus. “This wasn't a corporate-float
parade. It was a cross-cultural community-spirit kind of parade.”
One brightly coloured entry was the Gung Haggis Fat Choy, a full-sized
dragon boat captained by a kilt-wearing Todd Wong, who called himself
Toddy O'Wong for the day.
“We get to play with stereotypes,” said Wong, a fifth-generation
Chinese-Canadian with cousins who have married Scots, Irish and native
Canadians. “Wherever Chinese and Irish go, they seem to get
colonized by the English.
“Chinese came from the Pacific, while Irish came from the Atlantic. We met in the middle and had children, ” said Wong.
The drummer on board the Fat Choy – a Cantonese greeting meaning wealth
and prosperity [Todd's note – full phrase is Gung Hay Fat Choy] – was
Da Ming Zhao, a chinese newcomer to Canada.
“I am really happy to join in the parade,” he said. “It was
really new for the audience. Not only Scottish or Irish, but
something from other cultures.”
The legendary St. Patrick is believed to have driven the snakes out of
Ireland more than 1,500 years ago and is known as the priest who
brought Christianity to the island.
St. Patrick's Day is traditionally celebrated with green-dyed beer,
pipe bands and Irish dancers – all well represented yesterday.
Future plans include celebrating all seven Celtic races, including one that originates in Spain, said Markus