On Saturday, February 12, I had the Opportunity to attend the Chinese New Year exhibition at MacDonald Island, presented by the Fort McMurray Chinese Canadian Cultural Society. I took my little cousin with me who was very excited to hang out by the dragon heads (see photo). Admission to the exhibition cost only $5.00 and if you were 12 years and under or 60 plus, the event was free. I was surprised at such a low admission fee considering the long list of activities the event had to offer.
I was on a mission to not only enjoy the celebration and of course purchase authentic Chinese memorabilia, but learn the meaning and traditions behind the Chinese New Year and why this year is the year of the rabbit.
This year, the Chinese New Year kicked off on Feb 3. It is also known as the Lunar New Year; well, because the new year is based on the moon's cycle. The start of the new year doesn't necessarily fall on the same day each year as it is dependant on when the moon transitions through 12 full cycles. This year, as mentioned, is the year of the rabbit. I asked several exhibitors to explain what this meant. I was told that every ethnic Chinese person shares one horoscope every year; this year being the rabbit.
There are 12 animals, such as there are 12 cycles of the moon, which each Chinese New Year can represent. The ranking and choice of animals are based on an ancient Chinese legend, when a great combat occurred and the winners of the fights were forever placed in the Chinese calendar. The 12 animals are; rat, cow, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat/ram, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.
Although not an official holiday in Canada, many Chinese people celebrate this traditional holiday and the Fort McMurray Chinese Canadian Cultural Society is no different. The local celebration that occurred was open to all residents of Wood Buffalo and was a two part event; the first being the day time exhibition consisting of entertainment, games, Tai Chi, tea sampling, sales and more. The second was a more elaborate evening event that included an authentic Chinese buffet and entertainment. I only attended the day exhibition and was very impressed with the overall set up, delivery and effort the Chinese Canadian Cultural Society and volunteers put into the event.
As I entered the field house, Chinese music consumed me, making me forget the sounds of a hockey game occurring down the hall or the shouts of children in the Centre's play room. The decorations were bright and expanded the full length of the field house.
There was a slight resemblance of a marketplace; all exhibitors were positioned in the middle of the field house, back to back, allowing for a well organized walking system to view and engage all participants. I was intrigued with one booth in particular, where two small children were offering to paint a persons name in Chinese. The cost was by donation and samples on the table looked professionally painted. I guess, to me, there's just something a little beautiful about the Chinese written language.
I moved through the booths, one by one, asking questions about what they were selling and demonstrating and found that everyone of the exhibitors were very friendly and proud to share with me, and everyone else, what their booth represented. I am certain these people were asked the same questions several times throughout the day and although it was later in the afternoon by the time I attended, they were still very polite, smiling and appreciative to engage the public.
During my second walk around the booths, I purchased a beautiful pair of earrings, Chinese tea, then watched a portion of the entertainment. Young Chinese dancers dazzled the stage, all synchronized in movement and costume. The music was soft, the movements were gentle and I felt uplifted watching these young entertainers almost float across the stage.
Finally, it was time to go. I was very pleased to have had the opportunity to attend, purchase some items and learn about the Chinese culture. The Chinese New Year represents ridding away ill fortunes, wishing peace and happiness for everyone. Happy Chinese New Year to all of you.