WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
The lion Dance delighted those attending the Chinese New Year carnival.
Authentic Chinese cuisine, dance and arts, and kung fu demonstrations plunged people into the Oriental world, allowing them to not only cherish Chinese culture but also to celebrate unity.
Mary Help of Christians Parish hosted a two-day celebration of Chinese New Year, Jan. 21-22.
"Due to the many hands and sacrifices that have made this day possible, I have termed this year's Chinese New Year carnival 'a celebration of unity,'" said pastor Spiritan Father Ayodele Ayeni.
"In a world riddled with individualism and a superiority complex, it is pertinent to talk of unity."
Chinese New Year is the longest and most important festivity in the Chinese calendar. Jan. 23, 2012 marked the start of the year of the dragon.
Unlike the negative energies associated with western dragons, most eastern dragons are beautiful, friendly and wise. The dragon is regarded as the symbol of the Chinese nation and can be seen everywhere in its culture, including literature, architecture, art, furniture and even clothing.
Chek Wong, 12, told the WCR the lion dance and the dragon dance were the highlights of the carnival. Students from McNally High School performed the high-energy dragon dance that mesmerized the crowd.
"All of the food is good, and I like the game booths. The dragon dance was the best though," said Wong.
Although not a parishioner of Mary Help of Christians, Wong said he and his family look forward to attending the carnival every year.
Also performing were the Edmonton Chinese Philharmonica, IPCA Edmonton Chinese Opera Group, Piast Polish Dance Ensemble, Southgate Tai Chi Group, Karilagan Dance Society and a Latin dance by Elite Dance Studio.
The Chinese people prepare for the holiday by making sure everything in their life is in order or under control. They have a clean house, ensure rifts or problems are resolved, and wear clean clothes.
For the parishioners of Mary Help of Christians Parish, Ayeni called the carnival the Chinese way of celebrating unity and shaping the world through culture.
While the Chinese New Year is a pagan tradition and has nothing to do with Christianity specifically, Ayeni refuted the notion that anything is wrong with the celebration.
WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Salesian Chinese School performers portray a traditional dance.
The word "pagan" is derived from the Latin word, "countryside," he said. Anything deemed pagan is something that was normally only seen in small villages and in rural areas. Today, the perception of the celebration has changed.
"We see that people have their own way of expressing themselves, of relating to the world around them. Culture is part of the human person," he said. "From a Christian perspective, as long as what the culture offers is not against our faith, we don't say it is bad. It is an acceptable celebration of their culture."
Alan Ching, who chairs the parish pastoral council, said the initial idea for the carnival was to sustain the culture of the Chinese New Year. The parish had a committee comprised of determined, persevering, energetic people. They keep adding new components to the carnival and it improves every year.
"We can't say that it is spiritual, but one component of our parish is to provide social gatherings, especially in Canada where we have multiculturalism. We always cherish this celebration and we are proud of it," said Ching.
Over the years, opening the church doors to the general public has attracted many people of all faiths and cultures, many who otherwise would never set foot inside. Visitors come specifically for the carnival, but that is not always the end of their journey with the parish.
"The celebration opens up other ways that they may want to know us more from a Catholic point of view," said Ching.
"It's not going to happen in a short period of time or as a dramatic large-scale conversion. But we have seen better connections, and people come back to us and then talk with us, even though they are non-Catholic, so that is a good beginning."