Gung Haggis Fat Choy goes Seattle…. “one of the strangest things borrowed from north of the border”

North Seattle Herald-Outlook has written a story about the upcoming 2nd coming of Toddish McWong to Seattle.  Last year we staged a Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner on Chinese New Year Day in Seattle.  It was a benefit for the Pacific North West Junior Pipe Band. 

Check out my blog report from Gung Haggis Seattle 2007

Gung Haggis Fat Choy!
Feb. 24 event to mark Chinese New Year, Scottish Burns Night

 By Elizabeth Mortenson

■ Joe MacDonald celebrates multiculturalism by
 donning a Chinese lion-head mask and Scottish kilt for Gung Haggis Fat Choy. photo/Jaime Griffiths
¡ Joe MacDonald celebrates multiculturalism by donning a Chinese lion-head mask and Scottish kilt for Gung Haggis Fat
Choy. photo/Jaime Griffiths

America
has imported its fair share of entertaining goods from Canada,
including, but not limited to Celine Dion, hockey and Crown Royal
whisky.

However, it's possible the strangest thing borrowed
from our neighbors lately is Gung Haggis Fat Choy, the Scottish/Chinese
celebration being put on by The Caledonian & St. Andrew's Society
of Seattle on Feb. 24.

And if you're thinking to yourself, 'That sounds like a bizarre combination,' you're not alone.

“It's
weird – it's totally weird,” said creator Todd Wong. Started by Wong as
a dinner between friends to celebrate the Chinese New Year and the
Scots' Burns Night, the event is now a 400-seat extravaganza in
Vancouver, B.C., entering its 10th year.

After a decade and repeated exposure to this odd idea through the media, this cross-cultural
experiment has gained some acceptance.

A CROSS-CULTURAL CELEBRATION

In
1998, Wong, a Chinese Canadian, was planning a celebratory dinner for
the Chinese New Year. Burns Night happened to fall only two days away
from the new year, so he merged them. With this unusual but interesting
choice, he became “Toddish McWong.”

Burns Night is a
traditional holiday in Scotland held to honor the poet and national
icon Robert Burns, the man who wrote the ubiquitous-on-New-Year's-Eve
“Auld Lang Syne.” Celebrated every Jan. 25, the night assumed to be his
birthday, Scots hold suppers where people eat, honor his life and read
poetry.

The festivals are held around the world, but the haggis-dim sum derivation is McWong's particular hybrid.

Everything
from the food to the dress is an intermixing of the two cultures – even
the name of the festival. During the Chinese New Year people often say
“Gung Hei Fat Choy” to each other, which translates roughly from
Cantonese (a Chinese dialect) into English as “Congratulations and be
prosperous.

“Haggis
is the national dish of Scotland and a perennial favorite at Burns
Suppers. “It's like a giant hot dog. It's sheep stomach filled with
chopped-up liver, kidneys, spices, oatmeal, and then you boil it,”
described Diana Smith, entertainment director for the St. Andrew's
Society. She added that it was like a “meat pudding” – probably one of
the nicer things it's been called.

So “Hei” was replaced with “Haggis,” and Gung Haggis Fat Choy came into being.

“I think the Scottish people come to eat the Chinese food, and the Chinese people come for the bagpipes,” Wong said.

SPREADING THE WORD

The
idea of holding a Gung Haggis Fat Choy event in Seattle was Bill
McFadden's, president of the local Caledonian Society in 2007.

According to Smith, their Seattle celebration last year had few Chinese people in attendance. Wong estimates there were four
Scots to each Chinese person in attendance in Vancouver.

This
disparity could be due to the fact that these events are sponsored by
Caledonian Societies, whose purpose is to promote Scottish awareness,
are subsequently predominately Scottish in membership. However, all are
welcome and invited to attend.

“This year we're trying to get
the word out; I've contacted the Asian publications, so we're hoping to
have more of the Chinese element…. We'll see what happens,” Smith
said.

At this year's celebration in Seattle, the Washington
Chinese Youth Orchestra and Northwest Junior Pipe Band will perform for
the anticipated 200 to 250 guests (150 people attended last year's
event). Wong, himself, will be there to emcee the event. “It's gonna be
a blast,” he said.

GUNG HAGGIS FAT CHOY
Sunday, Feb. 24, 5-9 p.m.
Ocean City Restaurant
609 S. Weller St., Chinatown
Tickets $35
Diana Smith, 523-2618

One thought on “Gung Haggis Fat Choy goes Seattle…. “one of the strangest things borrowed from north of the border”

  1. Anonymous

    Tables have been added, but the event is nearly sold out again! 340 people will attend Gung Haggis Fat Choy Seattle next weekend!

    Reply

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