Fredericton Chinese community aims to share their culture through annual new year gala

Dancers in traditional Chinese dress practised their performance for the annual Chinese New Year gala at the Fredericton Playhouse. (Hannah Rudderham/CBC - image credit)
Dancers in traditional Chinese dress practised their performance for the annual Chinese New Year gala at the Fredericton Playhouse. (Hannah Rudderham/CBC - image credit)

Women in traditional Chinese dress danced across the stage at the Fredericton Playhouse on Sunday as they rehearsed for their first in-person Chinese New Year gala in two years.

Jenny Zhang, the chair of the Chinese New Year gala committee, said the theme of this year's gala is "melodies from the past" because there will be lots of music accompanied by a variety of costumes that will be used to show attire from different dynasties over the years.

She said the gala is important to the Fredericton Chinese community because it keeps growing.

According to Statistics Canada, Chinese people make up the second-largest visible minority population in private households in Fredericton.

"That's why every Chinese New Year, we get together to celebrate our holiday," said Zhang. "It's very big to us."

Chinese New Year, also known as the Lunar New Year, began on Jan. 22. This is the Year of the Rabbit — one of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac.

It is celebrated by over a billion people worldwide.

Hannah Rudderham/CBC
Hannah Rudderham/CBC

Zhenyong Yang, the president of the Chinese Cultural Association of New Brunswick, said the gala has been going on for over 10 years now.

The association was founded in 1977, said Yang, and has grown ever since. He said there are celebrations throughout the year along with a Chinese school where children can learn about their own culture.

This year's Sunday evening gala, according to Zhang, is already sold out.

Yang said along with the gala each year, they also perform in the community when possible. This year, he said they were invited to schools in Fredericton and Oromocto to perform.

WATCH | Last-minute rehearsals for Fredericton's Lunar New Year celebration: 

"Fredericton is not [a] very large city, but it's a nice place [with] diverse cultures. If you don't attend some special events, you may not know that very much," said Yang. "Chinese New Year gala is a very, very good chance to understand, to know what Chinese culture looks like."

The gala is complete with dancing, a fashion show, singing and even a performance from five to eight-year-olds.

For Ying Wu, she has done different roles in the show over the last 12 years from emceeing, dancing and singing. This year, she sings the opening number.

While she enjoys the performance aspect, her favourite part of the gala each year is how it brings the community together.

"You feel a sense of belonging in the community when you are part of a show like this," said Wu. "I also feel the support of my friends who are not part of the Chinese community who would buy tickets every year to come watch the show."

She said it's amazing to feel the support of the broader community and be able to share Chinese culture with them.

Because of her commitment to volunteering at the gala, Wu said she doesn't always get a chance to sit down and watch the entire show from the audience.

Occasionally, she gets the chance to sit for a minute and watch.

"Every time I get a chance to sit in the audience, I'm just awed by how beautiful the entire show is," said Wu. "Everyone's going to learn a little bit more about the culture and share the festive spirit with us a bit more."