The Chinese Filipinos are considered as one of the largest ethnic groups in the Philippines, so it’s not surprising that celebrating Chinese New Year is a big thing in the country. Over the years, its popularity has grown among Filipinos. This year is the very first time the Philippine government announced Chinese New Year to be a special non-working holiday.
About Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is perhaps the longest and most important event in the Chinese calendar. It is often referred as the Lunar New Year because it is not based on a specific date. Instead, it is based on when the first new moon of the year, usually between late January and early February. Among the Chinese, the Chinese New Year is also referred to as the Spring Festival because this date marks the end of winter and the start of spring.
Filipino Chinese New Year Traditions
The traditions observed during Chinese New Year in the Philippines is less extravagant than those in other countries like China and Taiwan. Nevertheless, these traditions and customs still make celebrating Chinese New Year in the country an experience like no other.
One of the most popular traditions observed during Chinese New Year in the Philippines is the lion dance usually staged on the streets, particularly in Binondo—Manila’s Chinatown. The performance is often a mixture of dance and martial art movements, and is done to scare away evil spirits and to summon good luck and fortune for the year.
Chinese New Year Red Envelopes
Another tradition—and my favorite one—observed during Chinese New Year is the giving of red envelopes called ang pow to children by their parents. These red packets are often filled with money with the amount equivalent to even numbers, 8 being the best since the pronunciation of the Chinese character of the number 8 sounds very close to the Chinese character that means ‘prosperity.’ In effect, the act of giving these red envelopes is a sign of making sure that the children remain prosperous throughout the year.
Wearing of Red
Red is the color of good luck. Wearing red clothes during Chinese New Year is believed to symbolize that you’ll be carrying good luck and fortune wherever you go throughout the year.
Giving and Eating of Tikoy
Tikoy, or Nian Gao, is a sweet and sticky rice cake that is given away before the start of the Chinese New Year to be offered to the Kitchen God who is about to make his journey back to Heaven to report the affairs of the family to Yu Huang Da Di—the God of all Gods. The offering of the tikoy is said to do two things. The first is so that the Kitchen God will only report good things about the family. The second is to make the lips of the Kitchen God sticky, making it very difficult to speak and ensuring that he will not talk ill about the family in his report.
After the tikoy is offered, it is then cooked—usually dipped in egg before fried with butter—and eaten by the family. The Cantonese name for this sticky rice cake is a homonym for ‘higher year.’ Eating tikoy during this time of the year is symbolizing that you are going to the next level this coming year.
Of course, no new year celebration would be complete without fireworks. In the case for Chinese New Year, however, fireworks are not for entertainment purposes. The light and sounds coming from fireworks are meant to scare and drive away the evil spirits who may try to enter the house during the start of the year who aims to bring misfortune to the family.
Enjoying a Feast of Chinese Food
Food plays an important role in much of the celebrations held in the Philippines. Chinese New Year is no exception. The spread of food enjoyed during Chinese New Year varies, but there are three staples that are found in every table: steamed fish symbolizing prosperity, noodles symbolizing long life, and sweet dumplings for everyone to have a sweet year ahead.
Kong Hei Fat Choi everyone! Have a great Year of the Dragon!
Do you celebrate Chinese New Year? What traditions and customs do you practice for Chinese New Year?