Gung Haggis Fat Choy

Festivals in Vancouver/Gung Haggis Fat Choy
VAMONDE Vancouver
Written By VAMONDE Vancouver

Gung Haggis Fat Choy

Gung Haggis Fat Choy is a cultural event originating from Vancouver. The name Gung Haggis Fat Choy is a combination wordplay on Scottish and Chinese words: haggis is a traditional Scottish food and Gung Hay Fat Choy is a traditional Cantonese greeting used during Chinese New Year.

The event originated to mark the timely coincidence of the Scottish cultural celebration of Robert Burns Day (January 25) with the Chinese New Year, but has come to represent a celebration of combining cultures in untraditional ways. In Vancouver, the event is characterized by music, poetry, and other performances around the city, culminating in a large banquet and party.

Origins

Gung Haggis Fat Choy was created in 1993 when a Simon Fraser University student Todd Wong was asked to help out with the University's annual Robbie Burns celebrations. Wong, a 5th generation Canadian, quickly learned about Scottish-Canadian culture with its traditions of men wearing kilts, carrying swords, playing bagpipes and eating exotic foods. In 1993, the Chinese Lunar New Year fell on January 27, only two days away from Robbie Burns Day, which is always January 25 in celebration of the Scottish Bard's birthday. "Gung Haggis Fat Choy!" said Wong, "I can celebrate two cultures at the same time." And thus was born the persona of "Toddish McWong" with his growing appreciation of Scottish Canadian history and culture.

In 1998, Wong hosted the first Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner as a private dinner party for 16 friends. In 1999, the first public Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner was created as a fundraiser for the dragon boat team. Forty people attended.

Recent years

In 2004, CBC television in BC premiered a regional television special titled "Gung Haggis Fat Choy." It was nominated for two 2004 Leo Awards: Best Music, Comedy or Variety Program or Series (Moyra Rodger); and Best Direction in a Music, Comedy or Variety Program or Series (Moyra Rodger/Ken Stewart). It featured music and dance performances and described the origins of Toddish McWong and Gung Haggis Fat Choy and included mini features on Robbie Burns, Chinese New Year and haggis.

By 2005, the event had grown to a fundraising dinner serving 570 people, and co-hosted by Shelagh Rogers - the host of CBC Radio's "Sounds Like Canada" morning flagship show. The dinner event featured Asian Canadian poetry by author Fred Wah, singalongs of Scottish songs such as Scotland the Brave and Auld Lang Syne, plus new twists such as "When Asian Eyes are Smiling." Highland dancing was performed by champion dancers Vincent and Cameron Collins. Traditional haggis is served as well as deep-fried haggis won ton, and haggis lettuce wrap.

2005 also saw the start of the SFU Gung Haggis Fat Choy Festival when the Simon Fraser University Recreation department wanted to create a student-oriented event to help kick-off the Winter Semester. Since SFU always celebrates Robbie Burns Day in January, the Recreation Department invited Todd Wong, SFU Alumni, to help them create a fun event that would be of interest to the large Asian student population. Todd invented the "Dragon Boat Cart", based on dragon boat racing. Six students "paddle" a dragon cart across SFU's Convocation Mall, while a seventh student steers the cart. In 2007, a new event was added: "Human Curling."

Wong was called to Victoria's Government House in April 2008, to receive the 2008 BC Community Achievement Award presented by BC Premier Gordon Campbell and Lt. Governor Steven Point. Todd Wong was honoured for his devotion to community service, building bridges and cross-cultural understanding, and acknowledged as the creator of Gung Haggis Fat Choy.

The Royal BC Museum recognized Gung Haggis Fat Choy in 2008, as part of the Free Spirit exhibit celebrating the province's 150 years of history. A picture from the 2008 Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner was included in an exhibition of food through BC's history. In August 2008, Todd Wong was voted in to as one of 150 of BC's most interesting people, joining such colourful historical figures as James Douglas the first governor of BC, and David Lam, BC's first Lt. Governor of Chinese ancestry.

January 25, 2009 marked the convergence of the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns and Chinese New Year's Eve. The Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year's Eve dinner took place on Sunday, January 25, 2009, when the Year of the Ox began on January 26.

Festivals in Vancouver

Gung Haggis Fat Choy

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