The Evolution of Chinese New Year – Vancouver Sun reporter Kevin Griffin interviews Todd Wong
Chinese New Year is evolving in Canada. No longer is it seen strictly as an ethnic holiday celebrated overseas or within Canada solely by ethnic ex-patriates. It is becoming a uniquely Canadian celebration in many urban centres such as Vancouver. And… it is becoming multicultural.
Vancouver Sun reporter Kevin Griffin interviewed me yesterday over the telephone. I shared with him my experiences of Chinese New Year, growing up in a Canadian multi-generational family that really didn't celebrate the Chinese holiday, as our family had always tried to fit into Canadian society. My maternal grandmother's grand father Rev. Chan Yu Tan would tell his grand children who thought they should skip school like their other Chinese friends – “Go look at the calendar and if Chinese New Year is listed on the calendar as a holiday, then you don't have to go to school.” Of course it was a Canadian calendar in English, and this would have happened about 80 years ago when my grandmother and her brother Daniel Lee were children.
My early memories of Chinese New Year were going to my Aunt Lani's and Uncle Yani's. I called them “Goo Mah” (father's oldest sister) and “Goo Jeung” (father's oldest sister's husband). They had both been raised in Hong Kong – even though Goo Mah had been born in Canada. She married him in Hong Kong, and thus lost her Canadian citizenship rights, and was unable to return to Canada until the mid-1950's after the the Chinese Immigration Act which banned all Chinese Immigration from 1923 to 1947 was repealed.
Chinese New Year at Goo Mah's was filled with many strange foods that my 4th generation Canadian mother did not cook. But I learned to appreciate the wonderful delicacies through the years, and the traditions that Goo Mah brought with her, since my father's parents passed on in the mid 1960's and my mother's mother, also born in Canada, was very westernized.