Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 17, 2007
Chinese family embraces Christmas
Once children arrived, the Leungs put up the tree, hung the stockings and had turkey dinner
- WCR photo by Ramon Gonzalez
Peter Leung, Cassandra, granddaughter Keira and Helen relax in front of their fireplace after putting up this year's Christmas tree.
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Peter Leung's Christmas celebrations back in Hong Kong were simple, even though the former British colony does celebrate the holiday. "Hong Kong is very westernized so Christmas is as commercialized as it is here," Leung says.
But due to lack of space in their small apartments, people on the island do not set up Christmas trees and the Leungs were no exception. Shopping malls and schools would decorate though.
About 20 per cent of people in Hong Kong are Catholic so Christmas, although important, takes second place to the Chinese New Year, which people celebrate in a big way, Leung said.
His family would celebrate Christmas with a special dinner consisting of regular Chinese dishes - no turkey - and by attending midnight Mass. They would exchange presents after the Mass.
But Leung doesn't recall getting any Christmas presents until after he enrolled in a Catholic school as a young boy. Giving presents "was just not part of the culture."
Things changed for Leung after he came to Alberta in 1973, especially after he married his wife Helen and the couple began to have children.
Now the member of Mary Help of Christians Chinese Parish and his family celebrates Christmas more or less in the Canadian style. They couldn't resist.
Their children - Sharon 28, Kelvin, 25, and Cassandra, nine - were all born and educated here and brought home new ideas and customs. "We now follow Western (Christmas) traditions," said Leung, a civil engineer. "The kids follow Western culture more."
The Leungs live in a spacious home in the Jasper Place area. In the first or second week of December, they put up a huge Christmas tree in the living room complete with lights and ornaments. They place a nativity scene or crŠche, which reminds them of the reason for the season on a little table beside the tree.
The children put stockings around the fireplace. "We started doing this after the kids started going to school and we learned more about Christmas."
Cassandra, the Leungs' youngest daughter, puts a glass of milk for Santa by the fireplace. The Leungs would get a hint as to what Cassandra wants for Christmas by reading a letter she sends to Santa every year.
On Christmas Eve, the family has a regular supper; then attends midnight Mass. On Christmas Day they have a big Christmas dinner with all their relatives -40 to 50 people. "They come with garbage bags full of Christmas presents for their kids," Leung said.
The dinner is usually a potluck dinner with Leung preparing the main dish - a turkey, a bird he never ate in Hong Kong.
"For us, Christmas is a big celebration; a big family gathering," said Helen.
After dinner, the family and guests gather around the Christmas tree to receive their presents handed out by a Santa's helper - usually Leung or one of his guests dressed in a Santa costume. The party, complete with games and music, goes on until midnight.