Chinese association invites Yukoners to celebrate the new year

The Chinese Canadian Association of Yukon welcomes you to the Year of the Sheep. The association’s third annual Chinese New Year celebration will be held Saturday at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre.

The Chinese Canadian Association of Yukon welcomes you to the Year of the Sheep.

The association’s third annual Chinese New Year celebration will be held Saturday at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre, and it’s bound to be quite the event.

Almost a year in the planning, the celebration will feature elaborate costumes, songs and dance, as well as a variety of Chinese foods.

The wildly popular event has sold out every year, and unfortunately for those still without tickets, this year is no exception.

It’s about celebrating Chinese culture and tradition, but it’s also a way for the association to say thank you to the Yukon, said Charmaine Cheung, the group’s vice president.

“It’s a way to give back to the community,” she said.

“Since we started three years ago we’ve just received so much support, including the government, including local businesses, even people on the streets tell us how much they enjoy watching the shows, how much they enjoy to learn a different perspective and things about Chinese culture.”

The event will introduce guests to some Chinese New Year traditions and showcase what members of the association have been working on for months, said Cheung.

Some of the performances will blend Chinese and western traditions, to showcase the diversity of Yukon’s Chinese community, she said.

There will be ballet dancers in Chinese costumes, and a musical performance using traditional Chinese instruments to play western pop songs.

This celebration marks the beginning of the Year of the Sheep.

“Sheep, as you know, they’re very calm and they’re very peaceful and quiet,” said Cheung.

“People born in the year of the sheep are supposed to be very kind hearted and vey polite and very smart and clever. And they are also very sensitive to arts and very beautiful things in life.”

Male sheep in particular are said to have exceptionally good luck, she said.

Cheung grew up in Shanghai, and has lived in the Yukon for about seven years.

“We are so far away from home, but we feel this is our home,” she said.

“What keeps me here is the people. I just feel that as an immigrant, I never, ever feel excluded.

“I never feel I need to change myself to fit in. I never need to, for instance, eat turkey to be a Canadian. I can eat rice and still feel I’m Canadian.”

Growing up in China, the new year celebrations were a time to visit with extended family, said Cheung.

The children looked forward to collecting little red envelopes at each relative’s house they went to, she said.

“Because every time you go to an uncle’s house, you bow and you get an envelope, and there’s money in there.”

And there’s lots of food.

“Literally we just eat from day one to 15, and every day have a 10-course meal with family, all different relatives.”

It was rare to get new clothes growing up, Cheung said, and she remembers looking forward to a new outfit that was picked out specially for the new year.

Richard Li, president of the association, also remembers spending the new year’s celebration with extended family. He grew up in Beijing and spent some time in Victoria, B.C. before moving with his family to the Yukon about 10 years ago.

“I guess the family definition in the Yukon is quite different than back in China,” he said.

“As long as you want to be a part of the Chinese culture, you are welcome. You can celebrate together with us, as if you are our family.”

Here in the Yukon, the community is so much closer than in a big city, he said.

“Back in China, you never walk down the street and see someone you know. The probability is so low. Here the opposite is true. You never walk into a place where you know nobody.

“This is a community that you really feel you belong to, because of the size.”

The Chinese Canadian Association of Yukon helps Chinese people who come to the territory find that sense of community, said Li.

A Chinese family moved up from Vancouver recently, and got involved with the community right away, he said.

“Once they came here, they immediately felt that this community is quite different from the community they used to have in Vancouver. In Vancouver, because there are so many Chinese people, nobody really gets together, because you’re talking about millions of people.

“They started to fit into the community really quickly, and that really impressed them. And that really impressed me, because I think this is exactly the value that I see from this organization, which is to help the local people, especially the Chinese ethnic group, to fit into the local culture, the local community, quickly settle down and start to enjoy life.”

The association is not just for Chinese people, though. The group welcomes anyone with an interest in Chinese culture to become a member.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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