Vancouver’s most unusual Chinese New Year tradition is back.
Gung Haggis Fat Choy – the unique celebration that merges Scotland’s Robbie Burns Day with Chinese New Year – returns Sunday, Feb. 8, at Vancouver’s Pink Pearl Seafood Restaurant.
Started in 1998 by Vancouverite Todd Wong, the fusion event combines traditions from two very different cultures into something that’s, well, odd.
Robbie Burns Day, which falls on Jan. 25, honours the birthday of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, who in the 1700s wrote such enduring works as Auld Lang Syne (the New Year’s song) and To a Mouse (the “best laid plans of mice and men” poem). The day is traditionally commemorated with poetry readings, the wearing of kilts and, of course, the eating of a delicious haggis – the classic Scottish dish consisting of sheep heart, liver and lungs served in sheep stomach.
Chinese New Year, on the other hand, which this year falls on Feb. 19, marks the turn of the Chinese calendar and the beginning of a new year (2015 will be the Year of the Sheep in the Chinese zodiac). Typical celebrations include big family dinners, festive red-paper decorations symbolizing good fortune and the lighting of firecrackers.
Mash these two holidays together and you get a rough idea of what Gung Haggis Fat Choy is. The annual dinner ($65), which attracts nearly 500 guests, centres around a Chinese-Scottish fusion menu. This year, diners will be served deep-fried haggis wontons and haggis dim sum, as well as haggis served with Chinese lettuce wraps.
In addition there’s lots of live, and often campy, entertainment, from poetry readings to fiddlers and bagpipes and even fun fusion sing-alongs to tunes like “When Asian Eyes are Smiling” and “My Chow Mein Lies over the Ocean.” Many guests get dressed up for the affair, as well. The preferred apparel in some way merges kilts or tartans with Chinese jackets or cheongsam dresses.
Even the name Gung Haggis Fat Choy is a sort of fusion pun. Gung hay fat choy is a traditional Cantonese greeting on Chinese New Year which literally means, more or less, “Congratulations on prospering in money.” And haggis, as mentioned above, is the Scottish delicacy of sheep entrails.
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