The wind and rain didn’t stop about 500 people from joining the 2753rd Karen New Year celebration at the Bell Performing Arts Centre in Surrey on January 11.
The Karens are an ethnic group from Myanmar who fled their country due to conflict. Most Karen immigrants in the Lower Mainland were among the 130,000 who lived in camps at the Thai-Myanmar border. An estimated 700 Karens now live in the Lower Mainland—mostly in Langley and Surrey.
The celebration, which has been held yearly since the Karen started arriving in 2006, was organized by the Karen Community Society of BC. The event showcased their culture through the presentation of songs, poems, food and dances. Women dressed up in colourful, hand-woven dresses paired with high heels used in special occasions while the men wore long-sleeved shirts underneath their traditional shirts.
Bob Gabriel, site manager of ISSofBC in Langley spoke at the event about the positive progress the Karens have made since immigrating to Canada. Also present were Jane Sauer of Langley Community Services Society, former Township of Langley councillor Mel Kosistsky, volunteers (some have worked with the Karens since 2006) and other ISSofBC newcomer clients.
The 2753rd celebration is unique because the Karen calendar follows the lunar cycle but this year also falls on January 1. Their calendar started 739 years before the Georgian calendar which marks the Karen arrival in Myanmar (then Burma until the change in 1989) from Mongolia.