What happens at Chinese New Year? All the takeaways close for a couple ofdays. Damned inconvenient. If, at the start of the Year of the Horse, you could eat one, your chances ofgetting it in a Szechuan sauce are on the Zavaroni side ofslender.
Even at the City Halls in Candleriggs, where, on Monday 29— two days into,the New Year — Glasgow‘s Chinese community will hold their main celebration, the food supply is unlikely to stretch to the expected four-figure attendance. Despite the sponsorship of, among others, McCain French Fries, a buffet lunch is planned only for the performers, community leaders and guests.
But there will, needless to say. be other aspects of Chinese culture both ancient and modern in evidence on the day. The traditional is represented by the Lion Dance, performed at the opening of anything from a shop to a New Year to ward offevil spirits, and by the distribution to children of ‘lucky money’, a token sum presented in a small red package. The more modern side of things will include Cantonese pop from the Lui Family, a performance from the Glasgow
Chinese Christian F wship, and a display by the splen ly named Hung Fat Kung Fu Club.
The whole event has been organised by the Strathclyde Chinese Co-ordinating Committee, a voluntary, independent body, whose past chairman is Stephen Wan. ‘We are active all year round,‘ he explains, ‘not just in the run-up to New Year. There are two main strands to our work - politics and entertainment. We work partly as an advisory body, helping Chinese
The Year of the Horse starts at the end of January. Galloping gourmet Stuart Bathgate finds life after take-away.
people here by putting them in touch with the relevant agencies for problems such as tax, or social services. And, as our name suggests, we co-ordinate a lot ofcultural activities, going into schools and working with Chinese children to let them know a bit about their background, as well, ofcourse, as organising things like New Year.’
Glasgow’s Chinese community, by far the biggest in Scotland, is 3500—4000 strong, Wan estimates. While most families originally came from Hong Kong, the fact that a growing proportion were born here means that many prefer to think of themselves as Scottish. ‘l’m second generation here,’ says Wan. ‘I regard myself as Chinese, because my father told me I’m Chinese. But a lot of the children now tend to say they’re Glaswegian, they’re Scottish.’
New Year, as the major annual celebration, acts as a showcase of sorts for all that is most typically Chinese, in the same way that our own Hogmanay celebrations unleash a host of Harry Lauder lookalikes. Wan regards the year’s turning as a chance to explain their ethnic traditions to the young, rather than crudely to force these traditions upon them. ‘We don’t try to make our children classify themselves as Chinese: what we do is take the chance to teach them about their traditions, to pass on their identity to them and tell them ‘You are
Chinese‘. But whether, once they’re older, they choose to take on that identity or not is entirely up to them.’ Whatever they decide, should they stay in Glasgow, the most likely source of employment, according to Wan, is still the catering industry. ‘About 80 per cent of our community works in restaurants and takeaways,‘ he says. ‘The latter, in particular, are still family-run.’ The stereotype, then, still has some basis in fact. That may give the odd alcohol-fuelled motor moron the chance to indulge in a few racist insults while waiting for his Saturday supper, however Wan believes that prejudice against all the ethnic minorities in the city is decreasing. ‘We all experience racism, and I think it will always be with us to an extent. But Scottish people are far more educated than they used to be.’ Anyone eager to extend their cultural education would be w_el_l-advised to attend the New Year celebrations. Admission is free, and all are welcome. But if you do turn up feeling peckish, make sure any food you find has not been designated as leftovers. To propitiate good fortune and symbolise prosperity in the year ahead, a certain amount always remains uneaten. Chomp up their good luck and you may have the misfortune to be stomped on by the Hung Fat boys.
The I 990 Chinese New Year Celebrations, City Halls, Candleriggs, Monday 29, 1-4pm. Further information from the Ethnic Minorities Project, Garnetbank Primary, Renfrew Street (332 2219), or from Vivian H ynes and Diane Hutchison at the Glasgow 1990 Festivals Ofﬁce, City Chambers (227 5568).
The List 26 January - 8 February 199011