If you were hoping to celebrate Chinese New Year by watching the traditional lion dance and eating sumptuous dumplings in-person, you will likely have to party online this year instead.
Hundreds of people usually gather in Moose Jaw in February to welcome in a new year — 2021 is the Year of the Ox — and sample several dishes ranging from Peking duck to beef to vegetables to fish. However, with the pandemic still percolating throughout the province, restrictions prevent any gatherings larger than 30 people.
“It will be quite a different (celebration) due to COVID-19 situation. We decide (that) we will do a virtual Chinese New Year celebration in this year,” said Wei Qi, president of the Moose Jaw Chinese Association Inc.
It should be noted that this group is not the same as the original Moose Jaw Chinese Association, which had its founding in the 1880s during the arrival of Chinese immigrants to lay tracks for Canadian Pacific Railway.
This relatively new Chinse organization came into existence in 2019 as a registered non-profit entity, explained Wei. The board’s directors met on Jan. 26 to elect a new vice-president and secretary while also gather ideas of how this year’s celebration should look.
“I just listen to other directors’ opinions. We come to the conclusion that we do virtually … ,” she continued. “It (is) way safer and respectful for everybody who actually gonna attend virtually rather than gathering together possibly, even though that not encouraged by the province anyway.”
It’s difficult to say how the online virtual event will be; however, the organization is recruiting friends and family from Moose Jaw and China to participate in different ways, such as singing, dancing or artistic displays, she continued. Another goal is to invite community groups and dignitaries to bring greetings.
While the association executive is still deciding what platform to use, Zoom seems to be the favourite right now. However, that decision has yet to be finalized, so everything could change at the last minute.
It will be tough not to have an in-person celebration this year, especially since the event is full of colour, action and delicious foods, Wei said. Furthermore, using a digital platform to gather will be challenging for many people in Moose Jaw.
“This (will be) the first time for online, but we try to make it smoothly,” she chuckled.
Wei was born in Beijing, China and moved to Canada more than 10 years ago; she has lived in Moose Jaw for a few years. She explained that Chinese New Year is celebrated somewhat differently back home.
For example, families have large gatherings around a table with the grandparents at the centre since they are highly respected. A large smorgasbord of food is prepared, including veggies, pork, chicken, beef, fish, and seafood, with the “major superstar” of the meal being handmade dumplings.
Wei noted that the association demonstrated how to make dumplings for a school in Moose Jaw last year before the pandemic shut down everything.
“That was quite an interesting experience,” she said.
Other foods featured in China include homemade noodles, Chinese-style waffles and burgers, and rice bowls. The latter represent family sticking together.
Once Chinese New Year does occur, it will then be appropriate to shout, “Gung ho fat choy (Happy New Year)!”
The organization will announce on its Facebook page what day it will hold the Chinese New Year celebration. The group is leaning toward Sunday, Feb. 14, but it has to speak with other community organizations and guests to determine if this is a suitable date for them.