Newcomers bring Chinese New Year to Haskell
If you’d like to take part in a holiday tradition that has been taking place for centuries, then visit the Haskell Free Library in Stanstead, this Sunday between 2:00 and 4:00 pm, for a special celebration of the Chinese New Year.
Poet and publisher Steve Luxton, who very recently was awarded the prestigious Quebec Writers’ Federation Community Award, and his wife, award-winning haiku and tanka poet, Angela Leuck, have planned a special, free event to take place on the Chinese New Year, February 10th, in the Haskell’s Reading Room.
The couple travelled several times to China recently, Ms. Leuck going there to teach English while Mr. Luxton went for his work as a publisher, and will present a talk entitled: “Mist and Smog, Myth and Reality”. Anecdotes, carefully chosen photographs, Chinese tea and treats, as well as a special introduction to The Year of The Snake will all feature in this celebration that, after speaking with the enthusiastic couple myself, I’m certain will be both entertaining and enlightening.
“We’ve just moved here and don’t know that many people so we thought it would be a nice way to introduce ourselves. We held a Chinese New Year Party in Montreal, last year, so, we thought, why not do one here? The Haskell Library, which is such an amazing place, was open to the idea,” explained Ms. Leuck about the reason the couple, who have just bought a house in Hatley, wanted to put on the event.
“Often what people know about China is what they read in newspapers. But being there was such an interesting experience; it is such a place of contrasts. On some levels it is a very medieval society while in other ways very modern. It is a surreal combination. Angela will approach the mythological while I’ll talk about the individual experience on the streets,” commented Mr. Luxton.
When it comes to China, what the couple seemed most impressed by was the generally sunny disposition of the Chinese people, despite their many hardships, and the amount of development taking place throughout the vast country.
“The Chinese people are very warm. Although we were the only Western people in the area where I was teaching, no-one looked at us suspiciously. Steve was caught walking in the rain once and a woman stopped him and insisted that he take her umbrella,” said Angela. “The Chinese people are always celebrating and there are lots of holidays. But the people there are not focused on getting things on their holidays; they focus on visiting relatives. They have a big social life; there’s dancing in the parks every night. You could never be lonely in China!” she added.
“One Chinese person told me that, every time he visits his grandmother, the roads are different each time because everything is changing so fast,” she continued. “When you look at the horizon it’s not unusual to see thirty or forty construction cranes looming on the horizon. People joke that the construction crane is the national bird of China,” said Steve.
They also spoke about some of the problems in China. “The majority of the population seems in a trance and the corruption is out of hand,” commented Mr. Luxton. “When I taught class, a representative of the Chinese Party was always there to write down everything that I said, then I had to sign it before he gave it in to the Party,” mentioned Ms. Leuck.
Asked why it is important to explore other cultures, the couple had this to say: “There is an interesting relationship between Canadians and the Chinese. Lots of Canadian missionaries have gone there – the Chinese people love Dr. Norman Bethune. People don’t realize how far China has come. In the upcoming decades it will be one of the world powers so it would be good to know them.”
“Putting on this event will be a chance for us to re-think our visits to China and a nice opportunity for us to discover the Haskell Library.”
Angela Leuck and Steve Luxton outside the walls of Qufu, China, the birthplace of Confucious.
Angela Leuck and Steve Luxton have travelled extensively, in China, in the last few years.