All eyes will be on the Yellowknife Chinese Association as they launch the Yellowknife Lantern Festival at Somba K’e Civic Plaza on Feb. 12.

Mayor Rebecca Alty is expected to attend the official lighting of 76 lanterns which are set up in Somba K’e Civic Plaza and which will stay on until March 6.

The event will coincide with the 15 the day of the Chinese Spring Festival -which marks the last day of the lunar new year – and will involve riddles hanging on the lanterns for residents to answer and claim prizes at local businesses.

Jacky Shi, left, and Frank Fu, president of the Yellowknife Chinese Association were setting up lanterns at Somba K’e Civic Plaza last week in anticipation for the Chinese Lantern Festival which is to be launched Feb. 12. Fu said there are 53 lanterns expected to go up during the festival which will last until March 6. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

“The reason why we picked the Lantern Festival instead of Chinese Spring Festival, as we usually have done in the past, is because the Lantern Festival indicates the end of the spring festival,” explained vice-president Xiaoyi Yan.

“On that day, traditionally in China, people put up all kinds of different lanterns, depending on the animal year. This year is going to be the Year of the Ox, so traditionally, in China, you will see people putting up all kinds of shapes of ox everywhere – different colours and shapes. Some are funny and some are more serious.

“Here in Yellowknife we also would like to create that kind of ambience for the city. The Red Lanterns are so traditional for us.”

Three workshops

Over the three weeks there will also be three workshops scheduled related to Chinese culture – all of which will take place at Northern United Place.

The first workshop, on Sunday, Feb. 14 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. will include a Mandarine Conversation and Calligraphy. The day lines up with Valentine’s Day and is an opportunity for people to show up, receive a Chinese name and see it written in calligraphy.

The following Sunday, Feb. 21 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. there will be a Chinese Traditional Rice Ball Cooking Showcase at NUP. Board member Angela Law and Flavour Trader owner Etienne Croteau will provide a cooking demonstration for the traditional Yuan Xiao (glutinous rice ball).

On the final Sunday, Feb. 28, two sessions – from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.  – will feature the Art and Culture of tea sipping.

Xiaoyi Yan said having the event spread out over multiple weeks will allow the festival to be held in a safe way during the pandemic while sharing Chinese culture for a longer period of time.

“There won’t be a huge gathering like what we have done before but instead we invite everyone to go to Somba K’e park to enjoy the lanterns, solve the riddles, and win the prizes,” she said. “Then for the workshops, unfortunately we do have a limit for the numbers of people we can allow. People are encouraged to register at (https://forms.gle/XeJhfquBSKxMRjMD6) as spots will fill up. “

Yellowknife Chinese Association

The association was only formally put together last October and since then the group has been strategizing to find new and interesting ways to celebrate the positive aspects of Chinese culture in Yellowknife.

“We haven’t had an Association for Chinese only, but we have had lots of events before in the past,” association president Xin Fu explained, noting that past Chinese New Year events have been popular but just haven’t had the formal organization around them. 

“This past year, we have built up this organization and right now  have 10 certified board members.

“We really think that with an association, we can get our resources together better and we can do something big.”

Board members estimate there is a little under 200 people of Chinese descent living in Yellowknife.

“This Lantern Festival is a place where we hope to reach more people who didn’t know about this association and celebrate the festival with us, said  Xiaoyi Yan.

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Simon can be reached at...

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