Chinese family celebrates small Christmas, gearing up for big New Year celebrations

Teresa Wright
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Anna Zeng, right, owner of King’s BBQ and Chinese Food in Charlottetown, along with her mother, Xue Bing Huang, father, Yong Chen Zeng, and her son, Anson Xu, will be celebrating Christmas in Charlottetown with traditional Chinese food.

This is the third in a six-part series called Christmas at My House.
The series looks at how Christmas Day is celebrated in the homes of Prince Edward Island residents from one tip of the Island to the other. The stories will be carried in the print and e-editions of the newspaper as well as online all week.

Christmas day for Anna Zeng and her family will be a day of festivity, but a much more subdued celebration than other Islanders will enjoy.

That’s because they wait for the 15-day Chinese New Year celebrations in January for their big holiday revelries.

Zeng moved to Canada 14 years ago and has since adopted many Canadian Christmas traditions.

She owns and operates King’s BBQ & Chinese Food restaurant in Charlottetown. There, she has mounted a Christmas tree decorated with tinsel, garland and twinkle lights for her patrons to enjoy while they eat.

She does not have a tree at home, but does plan to give her four-year-old son, Anson Xu, a gift on Christmas morning.

“On Christmas day, my son wanted gingerbread this year so I’m going to give a gift for him of gingerbread,” she said.

He is only just learning to speak English, but he already believes in Santa Claus.

“That’s why maybe I will try to give it while he sleeps. I try to follow the traditional way to celebrate in P.E.I.”

In China, people do celebrate Christmas, but like Zeng and her family, it’s a smaller celebration than it is in the Western world.

“The most popular is gathering the whole family to go to a restaurant to eat. (There) they eat chicken and roast duck and fish,” Zeng said.

“Then we go to a big bridge and then we see fireworks. They are very special.”

It’s not until a few weeks later that the real holiday celebrations begin.

For 15 days, feasts are prepared and shared in large family gatherings.

People dress in red clothes and give children and those who are yet unmarried “lucky money” in red envelopes.

“Every day they eat a big dinner. Every day they celebrate.”

P.E.I. has seen a major growth in immigration from China thanks in part to the Provincial Nominee Program.

This has led to the growth of a community Chinese New Year celebration in Charlottetown into a major event which last year saw almost 800 people in attendance.

Zeng says the first day of the Chinese New Year is always the most important of the two weeks of festivities.

As Buddhists, her family would ring in the new year by going to temple.

“We go to the temple very early, like 12 o’clock a.m. Then we pray for good luck for the next whole year. And we make some wishes. The most important wish is for health and family.”

Zeng said when her family lived in China they would also have their fortunes for the year divined through the practice known as Kau Cim, or Chinese Fortune Sticks.

Zeng says she does not feel any sense of conflict in also celebrating the Christian holiday of Christmas this year because her religion teaches its followers to embrace all beliefs.

“For us Buddhists, we think every culture is the same. It’s equal. It doesn’t matter what kind of belief you have, we are all the same,” she said.

“So that’s why I feel very free to celebrate Christmas.”

She added she is looking forward to one western tradition this holiday season in particular.

“When the stores are open, we will do the Boxing Day shopping,” she laughed.

Geographic location: Charlottetown, China

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Recent comments

  • peiguy
    December 20, 2013 - 08:31

    This is a good story to demonstrate that becoming Canadian is about finding ways to blend the culture and practices of your native background to the ones in your new homeland. I welcome you to the Canada that is now yours too. I wish you a merry Christmas because it is my way of sharing something inherently good and important to me with you, a new Friend and neighbor.

  • Congratulations Guardian
    December 19, 2013 - 09:39

    What a great idea for a series of articles. In some fashion, this ought to become a perennial series - not only to celebrate our Island's religious diversity, but also different points of view and how we experience life. Not one of the following reflects my daily life, but just a sample would include Hinduism, Bahá'í Faith, Judaism, Monastic, Rasta or being Zen. Be you a Beatnik, Goth, Hip-hop, Punk, a soldier or a hippie or live a life of celibacy, chastity, monogamy, polyamory or transvestism - it all matters. Maybe we're in jail or free or wealthy or homeless. Whether we life a live of activism, apathy or asceticism - all of our stories are worthy of being told and celebrated for what they are - expressions of humanity and the human need to search for who we are and who we want to be. To this end, congratulations Guardian for shedding some light on each other's stories!

    • Island Atheist
      December 19, 2013 - 10:20

      Religion is the opiate of the masses, and the cause of most wars. Why would we celebrate it?

    • nitpicker
      December 19, 2013 - 17:01

      are we celebrating religion per se or something more profound? I know I am. At its essence, I am celebrating peace, good will and family; not humanity's worst manifestation of the idea. Merry Christmas.