“Have a multi-cultural Christmas” – Vancouver Sun's Douglas Todd vs Todd Wong's experiences
Douglas Todd looks at the students and celebrations of Sir Richard
McBride elementary school in Vancouver. He compares present day
activities and student ethnicity to when he attended in the early
1960s. DT is a thoughtful writer and he explores the issues of
religious holidays, political correctness, inclusion, school
cultural programming, and what the children really want and think.
Of special note, DT writes that more schools are celebrating Chinese
New Year, or rather the more exclusive term “Lunar New Year,” as an
inclusive event that often celebrates all ethnic cultures. I have
certainly found this to be true, especially when I was invited early this year
to bring my Scottish-Chinese fusion of “Gung Haggis Fat Choy” to
Westridge Elementary School in Burnaby.
Check out DT's feature article titled
A Multicultural Christmas:
Sir Richard McBride students balance ethnicity with new traditions
Vancouver Sun – Dec 24th page C1
Personally, when I grew up at Vancouver's Laura Secord elementary school
in the from 1965 to 1973 – I thought I was already experiencing
multiculturalism by going to school with mostly white students.
Okay… there were a few students of Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Dutch,
Portuguese…etc heritage there too. By 1973, the Chinese
proportion grew significantly, and in my grade 7 class there were 6
other Wongs in the class, including the teacher.
I had started noticing more ESL immigrants of Chinese ancestry around
1970. This was the effect of changed immigration laws in 1967,
that now allowed independant Chinese immigrants, no longer only
sponsored by relatives to come to Canada. You see, even though
the Chinese Exclusion Act was removed in 1947, only very limited
immigration was allowed for family members only.
My experiences of Christmas growing up, involved dinners with sticky
rice, turkey, cranberry sauce, stir-fried vegetables – always a
combination of Chinese and Canadian food. When we visited
my father's side of the family – there were more Chinese speakers, as
his mother spoke almost exclusively Chinese, and his eldest sister had
been raised in China – despite having been born in Canada. I referred
to my mother's side of the family as our “English side” because the
family had been in Canada longer since the arrival of my grandmother's
grandfather Rev. Chan Yu Tan in 1896. Even my great-grandmother
Kate Chan was fluent in english. So… even in my family we were
multicultural… I guess.
Last year I visited my girlfriend's parents in Vernon, and we attended
Christmas dinner at a friend of theirs. I was the only, non-Asian
attending, of the 10 guests. It was my first ethnically “white”
Christmas dinner. We ate turkey with cranberry sauce, potatoes,
salad… just like my own family dinners. I felt comfortable with
the company, because of shared language and values. Nobody asked
how I was enjoying the new “cultural experience” because they just
assumed I was “Canadian”, knowing that I considered myself a 5th
generation Vancouverite. The cultural differences and
conversations were more concerned with the differences between
Vancouver and Vernon. Big City culture versus Small City culture.
Culture and “multiculturalism” is relative. Especially if it is married into the family.