© Austin M. Davis
Nigel Fang, 8, got to carry the head of the dragon for the first half of the line dance celebrating Chinese New Year at Jade Garden on Monday night.
Chinese New Year is about food and family — and not necessarily in that order.
“The parents put the emphasis on it,” said Hoabinh Van. “The parents keep it alive, really.”
Van remembers his mother’s annual hot pot dinners marking the occasion during his childhood. His father’s Chinese, but his family left Vietnam for Canada before he was 5.
“I grew up with both cultures,” Van said. “Mom and dad both celebrate both traditions and cultures. They’re really intertwined.”
He pointed around the room to highlight the blend of people from different places.
“There’s Vietnamese. There are different Chinese languages here too,” Van said. “It’s normal to me.”
He’s a self-described “hardcore Canadian,” but he enjoys celebrating the Chinese New Year and appreciates the focus on family, prosperity and good wellbeing.
The Chinese New Year celebration at Jade Garden on Monday night was organized by the Moose Jaw Chinese Association (MJCA).
Ark Yee, president of the MJCA, talked about the three main Chinese dialects and what it’s like to see people from different regions of the same country together in Moose Jaw.
He said China’s success influences the Chinese community in Canada.
“There’s succession. Most of the people you see here they’re all in their 70s and 80s. My mom’s elderly too now,” Yee said. “It’s neat to see a new influx of new Chinese people.”
Yee said newcomers now are building on the foundations of people like his parents.
“Someone has to pay the price. Whether it’s Chinese or any other nation,” Yee said. “Someone paid the price and we enjoy the benefits today.”
He said the slow boat his father traveled on was quite literally a slow boat. Yee’s father’s journey from China to Canada took over a month.
“My parents, they barely came here with the shirts on their backs,” Yee said.
He said the MJCA used to have a community centre for events, but it closed years ago. Now, the Chinese New Year is so high in-demand that more than two dozen people had to be turned away at the door on Monday night.
Yee said events like the new year celebration are especially important for the older members of the community.
“They really don’t see each other for the whole year. They’re all house-bound. They don’t get out much and they don’t want to get out in winter. So, it’s a long winter. This allows them to get out and have some good laughs in a culture they’re familiar with,” Yee said.
Even though Chinese New Year was on Jan. 31, Monday’s celebration filled the restaurant as the Year of the Horse was ushered in.
“There are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, so every 12 years, each animal has its turn,” said Judy Quon, MJCA secretary.
According to the zodiac, people born in 1978, 1990 or 2002 will have a lucky year in 2014.
But the year started off lucky for everyone who enjoyed Jade Garden’s 10-course-meal.
Soup, rice, duck, chicken, pork and fish were just a few of the seemingly endless parade of dishes from the kitchen out to the tables.
“I love the food. I love home cooking,” Van said. “It’s like turkey. You have turkey around Christmas time and ham around Thanksgiving. Chinese hot pot is something you have around New Year’s.
“It’s another good meal with family and friends.”