Newest Review: ... in this part of the country, she still adheres to all the necessary rituals in keeping with the Chinese New Year spirit. I would often ... more
Kung Hei Fat Choy!
Chinese New Year
Member Name: d-avenue
Chinese New Year
Date: 25/01/09, updated on 25/01/09 (285 review reads)
Advantages: it's a big celebration for the Chinese people all over the word
Disadvantages: none really.
January 26, 2009 marks the start of the Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year. This is based on the Chinese calendar and is celebrated for 15 days. In the Philippines, the people join in the celebration due to the fact that there are many Chinese immigrants who have settled in the country. Majority of them are business owners and have married locals making the country steeped with Chinese traditions and cultures. Most of them are established in big cities like Manila and Cebu where they are prominent figures not only in business but also in politics. There's a heavy concentration of Chinese population in the city called Binondo, particularly in Ongpin Street. The focus of the Chinese New Year celebration is held here where Chinatown is located. Several Chinese shops line the district and the streets will be packed with people as Chinese and locals alike usher in officially the Year of the Ox.
There's the traditional lion and dragon dance to mark the occasion. Almost all variety/talk shows in the country showcased a lion/dragon dance at the beginning of the show in the past few days to offer their participation to the coming event. The lion and dragon dance is a sight to behold because of the way they are manoeuvred by the dancers inside while snaking up and down given them motion and life while drums, cymbals and gong are playing loudly in the background. The lion is believed to bring some good luck while the dragon is the deity for water which ensures a productive year ahead. The dancers go from shop to shop to collect "hongbao" or red envelope hanging above the shops' entrance areas. According to some feng shui (the ancient practice of putting everything in line with the yin and yang philosophy) experts, the Year of the Ox is going to be a slow and steady year. It lacks the fire to keep the economy growing hence we are supposed to expect a harsher condition financially. However, people that were born in the Year of the Ox are supposed to be calm but full of tenacity. I was born in the Year of the Horse and the expert's prediction is that the Horse will have to persevere more this year but love is supposed to bring comfort. Well, I like the sound of that.
The Filipino people, including non-Chinese, prepare for this occasion by following some ancient traditions and practices. Some may have been twisted from their original forms but the objective remains the same. That is to bring in the good luck of the New Year and drive away the misfortunes of the previous year. Before starting anything the house should be cleaned before the New Year to sweep away bad elements. Some suggestions I've seen and heard over the years are as follows; one should prepare a bowl of garlic to bring in wealth and luck, spring onions for married couples to add love to the union and a wreath of fruits consisting of 13 oranges or ponkans with a pineapple at the centre. A red ribbon should be tied around the pineapple's crown. You can also include a root crop called Gabi (kind of like taro) tied with red ribbon for the whole family's good luck. My mother is a big follower of this custom. Although, we live in the province and there are only few Filipino-Chinese (Tsinoy, as we fondly call them) who celebrate the festival in this part of the country, she still adheres to all the necessary rituals in keeping with the Chinese New Year spirit. I would often present my arguments in the past that none of these really matter because there's not an ounce of Chinese in our blood, but she can't be deterred so I have just stopped bothering her and pretty much learned to go with the flow.
As of this writing, the household is busy preparing for tonight's feast. We are going to cook Biko, glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk and latik (brown sugar boiled in coconut milk). One of the most famous foods for this particular occasion is the Tikoy (nian gao). Tikoy and Biko are sticky and sweet foods that are supposed to make the good fortunes stick to those who eat them and make the bonding of the family sweeter. We will share a meal at midnight to greet the New Year with abundance. We have skipped some practices like the money in hongbao distributed among the members of the family. In the past, my mother will bury hongbao in a heap of rice and we would dig into it in the morning following New Year's Day and get our share of envelope. My mother would slip in Php20.00 to Php100.00. Of course, I would cheat and take a peek inside the envelope before I would fish out my share. Who wants to end up with a lower amount? This, however, is always present in Chinese families' celebrations. There are also fish, cotton, water, salt and sugar displayed on the table. These are the basic needs of man in his daily life and to avoid shortage of these, one has to offer these items to be blessed when the New Year comes in. Just like the traditional Western New Year, there will be firecrackers at midnight to meet the brand new year with a bang and to drive away evil spirits. For additional individual lucks, there are charms and crystals one can wear to protect one's self from bad spirits. But for me, these are just business opportunities for amulet dealers.
Red is a big colour in Chinese tradition. Anywhere you look, this colour dominates the festivities and it is said to help bring in that much needed luck. Shops and houses are decorated with red lanterns and ribbons. Red clothes and undergarments are also worn. At midnight, doors and windows should be opened wide to welcome in the New Year and let the old one out. In the past, we would burn a huge candle with a dragon design at the threshold of our house. The particular meaning of this escape me but again it has something to do with good luck. I think, some non-Chinese Filipinos participate for the sheer fun of it. It is again one way of getting the family together and share the year's harvest or income. In essence, we celebrate this to give thanks for having survived the past year and for enjoying good health and fortune. Family is considered fortune. Superstitions or not, it is a good and meaningful celebration and a nice break from our daily chores.
In Western observance, New Year's resolution is the way to improve the coming year. While feng shui experts offer some advice what one can do physically to improve his luck and fortune by preparing these tangible items, it is always tagged with advice that perseverance, hard work, patience and all these other virtues determine and shape a man's future. Mother fate can only do so much. But these traditions date back to ancient times and bring identity to the Chinese community and set them apart from the rest of the world. And Chinese cultures are deep-seated in Philippine society and have influenced the people in so many ways that taking part in this celebration is a good way to show solidarity and spirit.
Summary: Happy Chinese New Year, Dooyoo...