The Chinese Canadian Association of Yukon hosts its annual Chinese New Year feast on February 2 at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre
Alfred Au is a busy man, with a multitude of messages on his phone to go over, review and keep track of. But that’s to be expected when you’re the president of the Chinese Canadian Association of Yukon, and you’re organizing the local celebration for the biggest holiday of the Chinese calendar, Chinese New Year. The annual event, which marks the start of the Year of the Pig, is an opportunity for our Chinese Canadian residents to share some of their culture with the rest of the Whitehorse.
“It’s the biggest holiday in China,” Au said. “Usually, it would be a 10 to 15-day celebration and usually people get at least five days of paid vacation.
“Why we’re doing this every year; it’s to share the culture in Whitehorse.”
Au himself has been a Yukon resident since 2001. He first came to the territory to study English, in an immersion attempt to force himself to speak the language. It’s far too easy to simply speak Chinese in cities like Vancouver or Toronto, but here, students find it necessary to speak English regularly.
The celebration features a few key events that make the experience memorable, including a cultural dance performance and a traditional, multi-course Chinese meal. For the dance, the association partners with the Northern Lights School of Dance, which provides performers. The school also helps teach local Chinese youth to perform dances specific to one of the many cultural styles in China.
This year, the performance dance will be Ode to Pear Blossom, derived from Peking Opera, or Beijing Opera. The performing style combines a variety of speech, song, dance and combat movement, but ultimately is evaluated on the beauty of the performers’ movement.
The dinner this year will be prepared by the Green Garden Restaurant and will feature an eight-course, plated meal. Au and organizers have done a tasting to prepare. He says the meal will blend traditional Chinese food and specially designed food, just in case some of the traditional food doesn’t appeal to everyone. Au also noted that he’s looking forward to a special feature this year that will be a unique experience.
“Tippy Mah has donated two roasted pigs,” Au explained. “And we will chop them up onstage, or hope to. We still have to meet with the Kwanlin Dün [Cultural Centre].”
The prestige of the event draws a number of visitors who will be attending this year’s celebration. The consul-general of China will be up from Vancouver. The association has also invited Wei Chi Vicky Chu—a Chinese musician who is renowned in China. Chu plays the Ghuzeng, also known as the Chinese zither. It’s a plucked string instrument with a history that dates back more than 2,500 years.
In addition, Matthew Lien will be performing songs as part of the evening’s performance.
One of the other highlights for youth is the tradition of the red pockets.
“A special coin will will be handed out to the children born of the year,” Au laughed. “We’ll get all the little piggies up.”
The Chinese zodiac has special meaning to many, and the Year of the Pig means certain things. So what should you expect of those born under this sign of the zodiac? According to China Highlights, pigs are hard-working, compassionate, responsible and generous, but can be too trusting. And just in case you’re wondering what numbers you should keep track of if you’re a pig, the numbers two, five and eight, as well as any number containing them, such as 25, should be lucky for you.
But luck doesn’t make the event happen. It’s the result of the hard work and generosity of supporters and volunteers, who will serve the full eight-course meal. Funding comes from the City of Whitehorse, Yukon Tourism and Culture, Air North, RBC and Northwestel. Individual supporters include Tippy Mah, Eddie and Bonnie Ng, and the Jim Zheng Cultural Fund.
Tickets are sold out, but those interested in attending can make plans to contact the association through its Facebook page well in advance next year.