Yellowknife’s Lantern Festival kicks off this week, marking the debut of the brand-new Yellowknife Chinese Association.
Celebrations begin on Friday, with Mayor Rebecca Alty joining organizers to light the first lantern in Somba K’e Park to launch three weeks of festivities. Cabin Radio will live-stream Friday’s ceremony from 5:30pm.
Events include a riddle-solving competition and workshops to celebrate Chinese culture and traditions.
The Yellowknife Chinese Association (YKCA) was created in October 2020.
Xiaoyi Yan, YKCA’s vice president, said the organization began after several Chinese community members saw a need to provide the city’s newcomers with more support.
“We felt it would be very valuable if we have an association that connects the members together and provides mutual support,” Yan said.
Angela Law, who owns and operates Yellowknife Tours and serves as secretary for YKCA, agreed.
Those who have just arrived may need help learning the language, she said, or even navigating the city.
Having a community association can also help those dealing with homesickness.
“When they come here, they have no friends – they have nobody,” Law said. “You come up to remote in the area like this … they feel very lonely, and they need to ask for help.”
In 2016, federal census data showed there were 215 members of the Chinese community in Yellowknife.
YKCA currently has 35 members. Some have been here for more than a decade, such as Yan and Law, while others moved to Yellowknife in the past couple of years. Law described this as the “new and old Chinese community coming together.”
Though still young, the organization has big plans for its future.
YKCA is working to develop an online presence that showcases Yellowknife’s Chinese community and helps potential immigrants learn more about the NWT, Yan said.
The organization has also forged relationships with cultural groups like the Filipino Cultural Association of Yellowknife and the Association Franco-Culturelle.
“We definitely would like to celebrate the diversity and multiculturalism of the city, and hopefully, what we bring will be appreciated by the community,” Yan said.
“Hopefully, other ethnic groups are also sharing their culture, so we really can become a big family.”
Celebrated on the 15th day of the Chinese New Year, the Lantern Festival is “quite significant” in Chinese culture, Yan said.
“Typically, people would put up lanterns … in the past, they would light the candle, or kids will have lanterns of all different shapes and walk in the street,” she explained.
“That’s really a celebration of light.”
Riddles are a big part of the annual celebration, serving as fuel for friendly family competition.
Anyone in Yellowknife wanting to test out their solving skills can pick up a riddle in the park. Prizes are available for those who are able to answer them before March 4.
Alongside lanterns and riddles, free workshops highlighting different Chinese traditions are set to take place at Northern United Place on Franklin Avenue.
These include Mandarin conversation and calligraphy on February 14, a rice-ball cooking class on February 21, and a class on the history and culture of Chinese teas on February 28.
All are subject to Covid-19 restrictions and screening protocols.
For Yan and Law, organizing this year’s festivities was a labour of love for the new YKCA.
Yan added: “We’ve got a huge, eager team this year, and we are really hoping that our celebration will be enjoyed and appreciated by the community.”
Those interested in joining one of the workshops can email firstname.lastname@example.org to book a spot.
This article was produced as part of a paid partnership with the Yellowknife Chinese Association, though the association had no editorial oversight over its content.