For a short moment in time, one week ahead of Chinese New Year, Dixon elementary school was converted from a place of learning into a dumpling factory where more than 1,000 tasty, oval-shaped pastries were manufactured by a dedicated group of Chinese-Canadian parents.
Last Friday marked the fourth consecutive year the parents had been invited to celebrate the holiday with the students from teacher Lee Hunter’s class.
“The kids get really excited and they learn about Chinese culture,” said mom Mella Mi, who helped organize the big cook.
In the school’s kitchen, about a dozen moms, and one dad, put together an impressive assembly line of kneading, cutting, filling and folding of dumplings. The parents brought all the necessary ingredients from home. Some of the dumplings were flavoured and coloured purple and green, with beets and spinach. Three varieties of dumplings were made: beef, pork and vegetable.
Dumplings symbolize wealth during Chinese New Year; the more you eat, the more money you can make in the New Year. They are most popular in northern China, which makes parent Sunny Sun, a dumpling expert, having recently moved to Richmond from Dalian, China’s major northern port city.
The parents created an assembly station for six students to come into the kitchen and create their own dumplings.
Two students, who recently immigrated to Canada from the Mediterranean, were particularly interested in making dumplings for the first time.
Grade 4 student Ayash Kamel came to Richmond from Cairo, Egypt, in 2014 and said he hadn’t had real Chinese food yet. “It’s a lot of fun,” said Ayash of the experience.
Grade 3 student Zeena Salim, who came to Richmond this school year from Jordan, was equally impressed with the dumpling celebration. She said her favourite dumpling is the chicken dumpling, and that this was her first time making the bite-sized treat.
It wasn’t all just about the dumplings, although Hunter admits they are the biggest draw.
Hunter also had two other Chinese New Year stations that his students could cycle through during the morning: traditional Chinese calligraphy and Chinese paper art. Chinese-Canadian parents also helped the students create impressive works of art.
To compliment the dumplings, the students also had Chinese snacks and the aunt of a Chinese international student made Shanghai noodles.
Hunter said the now annual event is an important way for parents who are new to the school system to become involved in the school community.
“Often, there’s language barriers and some parents don’t want to ask questions; they feel they can’t. This sort of thing makes them feel more comfortable,” said Hunter.
“It’s important for parents to get to know the school community,” he said.
“These wonderful helpers now get very involved and show great interest in student learning,” added Hunter, who wore a traditional Chinese robe, as did principal Bill Juhasz, and many students.
After being boiled, the dumplings were shared among parents, students and faculty.