Scottish Hogmanay + Asian Lunar New Year = Gung Haggis Fat Choy

Scottish Hogmanay New Year
+ Asian Canadian Lunar New Year

Gung Haggis Fat Choy

It seems like only last year, when I was in Scotland for my first visit… not that long ago in Beijing.

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Todd Wong in Edinburgh, at the Scottish Parliament display for This Is Who We Are: Scots in Canada

Actually, I was in Scotland for Homecoming Finale on November 30, 2009, and a picture of me as “Toddish McWong” was on display in Bejing at the BC Canada Pavillion during the 2008 Olympics.  It was a wonderful visit to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Ayr, and the birthplace of Robbie Burns in Alloway Village. 

Vancouver saw it's own Olympics in 2010, when the world “came home” to Vancouver, and Canadian pride virtually erupted as never seen before, as the Men's Hockey team added the 14th gold medal to the biggest gold total ever for a host nation at Winter Olympics!  The 2010 Canadian Olympic team included First Nations, Chinese-Candian athletes, and many ethnicities from around the world.  We hoped Patrick Chan would medal for the Mens Figure Skating and Alexa Loo for Snow board.  There was the 2010 First Nations Snowboard Team.  Ideally we would not compare ethnicities, and count everybody as Canadian. But the inclusive nature of multiculturalism speaks to the world of our ability to rise above the ethnic and religious squabbles that that lead to so many wars around the world, based on differences.

DSC_5262_142780 - Todd, Joy KOGAWA & Tricia by FlungingPictures

Todd Wong, Joy Kogawa and Tricia Collins @ 2010 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner

Now I am planning not only the Vancouver Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner for January 30th 2011, but also dinners for Gung Haggis Seattle in February 20, and much smaller inaugural dinner events for Victoria and Nanaimo for January 22, and 23.  The Nanaimo Gung Haggis Fat Choy Pow Wow dinner will be very special because it will bring together First Nations history and culture along with Scottish and Chinese pioneer history in Vancouver – this is because friend and radio-personality Shelagh Rogers asked if there was something we could create for First Nations and non-Aboriginal reconciliation. 

Of course each Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner is unique and special from year to year… and the proposed Victoria Gung Haggis dinner will recognize my family's history in Canada since 1896 when Rev. Chan Yu Tan first set foot in Canada, as well as my picture being included in the Royal BC Museum's 2008 installation “The Party” including Toddish McWong as one of 150 important BCers you would want to invite to the party for the150th anniversary of the Colony of British Columbia.

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Members of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Pipes & Drums – included Dan Huang of the Kelowna Pipes & Drums

New years are new beginnings, and every culture celebrates them differently and similarly.  That's the great thing about being in a multicultural nation such as Canada.  All of the world's cultures live inside our borders and we can freely share and partake of each other's cultures.  Yes, there are still racist bigots and idiots out there, and that is why it is so important for us to embrace cultural harmony and help to build a country we want to be proud of.

The origin of Gung Haggis Fat Choy
started when I was asked to participate in the 1993 Robbie Burns Day
celebration at Simon Fraser University.  In 1998, I decided to
host a dinner for 16 guests that blended Robbie Burns Day(January 25th)
with Chinese lunar New Year (late January to early February).  Now the dinner event that has grown to an size of almost 500 guests, a CBC television special, an annual poetry night
at the Vancouver Public Library, a recreation event at Simon Fraser
University…. and media stories around the world!

Hogmanay is the Scottish New Year's Eve, and it is celebrated on New Year's Eve with a Grand Dinner. It can be very similar to Chinese New Year's in many ways:

1) Make lots of noise. 
Chinese like to burn firecrackers, bang drums and pots to scare the
ghosts and bad spirits away.  Scots will fire off cannons, sound
sirens, bang pots and make lots of noise, I think just for the excuse
of making noise.

2) Pay off your debts. 
Chinese like to ensure that you start off the New Year with no debts
hanging onto your personal feng shui.  I think the Scots do the
same but especially to ensure that they aren't paying anymore interest.

3) Have lots of good food.  Eat lots and be merry.  Both Scots and Chinese enjoy eating, hosting their friends and visiting their friends.

4) Party on dude!  In
Asia, Chinese New Year celebrations will go on for days, lasting up to
a week!  Sort of like Boxing week sales in Canada.  In
Scotland, the Scots are proud partyers and are well known for making
parties last for days on end.

Come to think about it… the above traditions can be found in many
cultures… I guess the Scots and Chinese are more alike than different
with lots of other cultures too!

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