Chinese New Year’s Day Away from Home

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“The lunar calendar marks this year as the Year of the active, amusing and spotlight-grabbing Fire Rooster”

by Rose Maramba


Twice in eight months I’m back in Asia and whether I like it or not I’ll be welcoming the Chinese Lunar New Year’s Day in the Philippines. In a way, it’s the next best thing to celebrating it in China/Hong Kong, for “authenticity”.

Chinese presence in the Philippine archipelago is as old as time. I suppose that’ inevitable considering the two countries’ proximity to each other. Until recently it’s been the presence of a cultural and racial minority. Today, it’s a presence of a formidable economic power and very quickly becoming a disquieting political presence as well.

What the Filipinos and their government feel about this “threat” belongs in a separate article. (Though it’s a rare Filipino who hasn’t a wee drop of Chinese blood careening in his veins on account of some intermarriage despite the historical mutual distrust between the two peoples.) The present article is simply about the Chinese New Year in a FOREIGN land!

Binondo, Chinatown in Manila, a blend of Filipino and Chinese cultures

Chinese New Year is the most important festival for the Chinese communities in the Philippines, lasting as long as two weeks – as it does in other Chinese communities around the world and China of course. The lunar calendar marks this year as the Year of the Fire Rooster. Celebrations will begin on the eve of the New Year, 27 January, and ends on 2 February. The New Year falls on the 28th of January and will last till the 15th of February of the following year. Chinese establishments, notably but not exclusively Chinese restaurants, are festooned with the ubiquitous red Chinese lanterns. Each day of the festival is celebrated with different events which, on the other hand, are quite predictable: Dragon parades, fireworks to drive away the bad and unlucky spirits, copious banquets to rival Western bacchanalia in affluent homes. . .

Sweeping away the bad luck

Like anywhere where there is a Chinese community, no matter if it’s only a community of a small family in a remote village, the underpinning of the celebrations is to attract prosperity, good fortune and closer family ties.

If you see a Chinese cleaning his house so thoroughly and with intense concentration these days, don’t think he’s suddenly become a cleanliness freak; he’s just trying to ensure the New Year will bring prosperity to his home. On the New Year, you’ll find him busy with the broom sweeping away bad fortune. He’ll be stuffing red envelopes with lucky money to get rich. So is the incredible array of Chinese sweets and other foods on the table! The tikoy, for example, a sweet and sticky rice cake, is believed to attract good luck and make it stick.

Sticky Filipino tikoy makes the good luck stick!

In this day and age of the Internet, many young Chinese have begun receiving red envelopes online!

The bigger the Chinese presence in towns is, the grander the celebrations are, to the extent that some streets are closed off to vehicle traffic during the events despite the fact that the New Year is an official public holiday in the Philippines.



Here are some morsels of the Chinese animal zodiac

> The Chinese zodiac goes round in a 12-year cycle.
> Roosters are born in 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005 and 2017.
> Those born in 2017, as well as those in 1957, are Fire Roosters. Otherwise they’re one of the following: Wood Roosters, Earth Roosters, Gold Roosters or Water Roosters.
> Fire Roosters are trustworthy, punctual and responsible especially in their work.
> All Roosters are active, amusing, popular, healthy, outspoken, honest, loyal, and charming. They’re also boastful and love the spotlight.
> If you’re a Rooster your lucky numbers are 5, 7 and 8. Your lucky days are the 4th and 26th days of a Chinese lunar month. Your lucky colors are gold, brown and yellow.
Among the celebs born in the Year of the Rooster are Serena Williams, Beyonce and Roger Federer.


Xin Nian Kuai Le!
Happy New Year!




Featured image by Mertie via Flickr, CC BY2.0
Girl on dragon by Charlie via Flickr CC BY 2.0
Chinatown, Manila by Trishhhh via Flickr, CC BY2.0
Sweeping away by Laurel F. via Flickr, CC BY-SA 3.0
Filipino tikoy  by Judgefloro, CCO