Gung Haggis Fat Choy is not your typical celebration. Born out of the rich tapestry of Canadian multiculturalism, this unique event combines two seemingly disparate cultural traditions—Chinese New Year and Robbie Burns Day—into a harmonious fusion of food, music, and festivities. Created by Todd Wong in 1998, Gung Haggis Fat Choy has since become an annual tradition that brings together people from diverse backgrounds to celebrate the richness of cultural exchange and the spirit of unity.
Todd Wong, a Vancouver-based community organizer, conceived the idea of Gung Haggis Fat Choy as a way to explore and celebrate the mixing of Scottish and Chinese traditions. As a 5th generation Canadian, Wong found a creative and inclusive way to embrace both heritage. The event, held around the time of Chinese New Year and Robbie Burns Day, has become a symbol of cultural harmony and a testament to Canada’s multicultural mosaic.
Simon Fraser University played a part in the origins of Gung Haggis Fat Choy. “I first became involved with the strange customs of Scottish Canadians when I was asked in 1993 to help with the Burns Day ceremony,” said Wong, “I was a student tour guide, and we were paid to give tours to visitors. But nobody wanted to carry a haggis and wear a kilt. Being loyal to my job, I hedged… ‘I’ll do it if you can’t find anybody else,’ I said to our team leader, being very mindful of all the deep snow around campus that cold week in January.”
Years later Wong would invite friends to the first Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner. The original Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner had 16 people in the living room of a private townhouse in North Vancouver. Its host Gloria hired a bagpiper, from the SFU Pipe Band. Wong cooked most of the Chinese dishes and served the haggis with sweet & sour sauce and with plum sauce. And from there, the celebration only evolved and expanded.
Gung Haggis Fat Choy is not just a culinary event; it’s a cultural extravaganza that showcases the best of both Chinese and Scottish traditions. The centrepiece of the celebration is a fusion banquet that blends the flavours of traditional Chinese and Scottish cuisines. Haggis dumplings, sweet and sour haggis won tons, and deep-fried haggis spring rolls are just a few examples of the inventive dishes served at the event.
The dinner is accompanied by lively performances that fuse Chinese and Scottish music, dance, and poetry. Bagpipes and Chinese drums harmonize in a unique blend of sounds that reflect the diverse influences that make up Canadian culture. The fusion performances capture the spirit of Gung Haggis Fat Choy, emphasizing the beauty that emerges when different cultures come together.
One of the key aspects of Gung Haggis Fat Choy is its commitment to community engagement. The event has evolved beyond a private celebration to become a platform for dialogue and understanding among different cultural groups. It brings people together, fostering connections and breaking down cultural barriers.
Gung Haggis Fat Choy has inspired other communities to explore their cultural fusions, leading to the creation of similar events across Canada and the United States. This grassroots movement exemplifies the power of cultural celebration as a tool for building bridges and fostering a sense of belonging.
At its core, Gung Haggis Fat Choy is a celebration of inclusivity and diversity. The event encourages people of all backgrounds to participate, fostering an atmosphere of acceptance and appreciation for different cultures. The fusion of Chinese and Scottish elements serves as a metaphor for the broader multicultural experience in Canada, highlighting the beauty that emerges when diverse traditions come together.
Gung Haggis Fat Choy is more than just a celebration; it is a testament to the strength and beauty that arises from embracing diversity. In a world often divided by cultural differences, this unique event stands as a shining example of how communities can come together, share their traditions, and create something new and wonderful. As Gung Haggis Fat Choy continues to inspire and grow, it leaves a lasting legacy of unity and cultural appreciation in its wake.
This year will be the twenty-fifth anniversary of Gung Haggis Fat Choy. It will be a dimsum and will take place on Sunday, January 28, 2024, at 12.00pm at Floata Seafood Restaurant. For ticket information, go to the Gung Haggis Fat Choy website.
Anderson X. Lee is an Asian Canadian artist who lives, plays, and does their work on the unceded, unsurrendered ancestral lands of the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem), qiqéyt (Qayqayt), Stó:lō (Sto:lo), xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations; and the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations of the lək̓ʷəŋən (Lekwungen) Peoples.