A Holiday in Everything But Name: Chinese New Year is now celebrated locally like never before – is it time to make it official?
Vancouver Sun – February 12 – page D1 & D19
The Vancouver Sun's Kevin Griffin addresses issues
around the evolution of Chinese New Year in Vancouver and Canada.
He asks the question: Should Chinese New Year become an official
Griffin also cites how “the uniquely local Canadian
banquet Gung Haggis Fat Choy that mixes and matches Scottish and
Chinese New Year's traditions continues to grow and threatens to morph
into its own festival.”
Griffin interviews Dr. Jan Walls and explores the history of the
Vancouver Chinatown parade that originally emerged in the 1960's, faded
then re-emerged in 1974. He then addresses Toddish McWong's Gung
Haggis Fat Choy and its spin-offs. I have only included the parts about
Gung Haggis Fat Choy and Todd Wong.
“Another multicultural tradition that's 100 percent local is Gung
Haggis Fat Choy, the creation of fifth generation Chinese-Canadian Todd
Wong. The postmodern mix of chinese New Year and Robbie Burns Day
started seven years ago when Wong invited 16 friends for dinner.
Two weeks ago, about 600 people turned out for a feast that included
Haggis Wun-tun in maple syrup at Chinatown's Floata Restaurant.
This past year, Wong added something new to the mix: The first annual Gung Haggis Fat Choy Canadian Games
at SFU that started off with a Highland dance, a tune by a bagpiper and
a Lion Dance. The main event was dragon cart racing with teams
sporting names such as Haggis Hooligans and Fat Choy Chunkies.
Crystal Buchan had the honor of steering the winning team. At 20, she's in her second year in the theatre-finarts program.
Asked if Chinese New Year should be a holiday, Buchan said, “Sure, why not?.”
Todd Wong – aka 'Toddish McWong' – isn't nearly as certain.
'It depends on the will of the people.” Wong said. “It's hard to say at this point.”
In part, Wong's perspective comes from his own family history. He's a descendent of Rev. Chan Yu Tan,
his great-great-grandfather who came to B.C. from Hong Kong in 1896
when immigrants were actively discouraged and had to pay a head tax of
$50 (later increased to $500). Wong recalls growing up in the
1960's and 1970's when Chinese culture was maginalized.
Wong's family history spans the historiy of discrimination towards
Chinese immigrants and the complete prohibition of immigration from
china from 1923 to 1947 with the Chinese Exculsion Act.
Because the emphasis was on fitting in when Wong was growing up int he
late 1960's, his fmaily never celebrated chinese New Year.
He believes that the next challenge for Chinese New Year is not only
to integrate the old and new Chinese Canadian communities but to make
it a uniquely multicultual and Canadian event.
“That's where the future lies,” Wong said. “Canada is an evolving
culture. Lunar New Year will continue to grow and be inclusive –
not just limited to Chinese.”
For more of Kevin Griffin's story in the February 12 Vancouver Sun – pick up a copy or check www.vancouversun.com