Friday marked the first day of Lunar New Year, the year of the Ox. To celebrate, the newly formed Yellowknife Chinese Association hosted its first-ever Lantern Festival at Somba K’e Park (going on until March 6). I spoke with Frank Fu of the Yellowknife Chinese Association about what we can expect. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: So what will be taking place at the festival Friday night?
Fu: That will be the opening of our Lantern Festival. We’ll light the lanterns and people get together.
What’s the significance of the Lantern Festival in Chinese New Year festivities?
It’s exactly the first day of Lunar New Year… So on that date people will be lighting a lot of candles for lanterns and put a lot of riddles between the lanterns so people will catch the riddles. When they catch the riddles they can get a prize or something. It’s a very traditional activity in China. When they talk about Spring Festival, it will last at least two weeks until the Lantern Festival. So after the Lantern Festival it will be officially the end of Spring Festival.
Can you tell us about the workshops happening for this festival?
[With] COVID-19, there’s limitations on gatherings, so we cannot have over the limit of 25. So that’s why we try to separate the whole party into three smaller events and to make that even more interesting, and [to help people better] understand the Chinese culture, we chose three different [types of] content for those events. One is to taste the sweet rice ball, because the sweet rice ball is a traditional Chinese food eaten at the Lantern Festival. It's very delicious so we feel like people [need] to taste that, so that’s one of our events. And for the second, we want people to [learn] how to write a name in Chinese. For the third one, people will learn how Chinese drink tea because we have thousands of tea treats. We have thousands of years of [tradition with] tea, so that’s a lot of our culture along with the tea.
There’s been a Chinese community in Yellowknife for a long time, but your group just launched last year. Why did it take so long to form the association?
Because I came here alone and I knew nobody here. That situation lasted two or three months until I met somebody. So I think... if we have associations here… Chinese newcomers can get help and support and not feel so alone. So in the middle of last year I made some friends and they were thinking the same thing as me. So, finally we built the Chinese Association in October of last year.
Why was the association formed?
One is to support the newcomers here. Just like me before. I think the association can help newcomers, new Chinese, to help to become familiar with the community—to support them, to help them if they have some difficulty with language or how to settle down, so that's one of our very big, major purposes. The second is, because we have a lot of existing residents here, we try to get them together so that we can have each other and we can make the Chinese culture more engaged to the community. And the third one is we hope to, through this association, make some kind of a platform for all the people who are interested in Chinese culture, who like to communicate with Chinese people. So I think it's a good way for everybody here to enjoy the Chinese culture.
What is it about the Lantern Festival you like the most?
In the past I joined a lot of lantern festivals in China. But here we got a lot of snow, so the [way the lanterns light up against] the snow is very beautiful. I built this Yellowknife Chinese Association just five months ago, through all the preparations and all the hard work we gained a better understanding between us. I think it's a good way to get to know each other, to make everybody in the association like a big family.