What is Chinese New Year in the Philippines All About?
While the Filipino-Chinese community only comprises a small portion of the Philippine population, celebrating the Chinese New Year is probably one of the most awaited events in the country. It is known for its festivities and grandeur.
Chinese New Year in the Philippines, or any other place for that matter, marks the beginning of spring and new year in the Chinese Lunar calendar. It differs from the Gregorian calendar, which signals a fresh start during the first day of January every year. The Lunar New Year depends on the appearance of the new moon—which makes the date of the celebration different every year.
It was celebrated last January 25 this year. In 2021, it is set on February 12. The government made this a special non-working holiday to give the Filipino-Chinese and Chinese communities to celebrate the turning of a new leaf with their loved ones.
Bringing in Luck Into Your Family
People usually associate the celebration of Chinese New Year to bringing in luck into your family as you usher in a new year. While this is true, it is also important to know that it is about being with your family.
The Chinese culture puts great value on family. It is a tradition for every member of the family to be present during the eve before New Year. They want to be together when welcoming the year ahead.
Filipino-Chinese families usually spend their New Year’s Eve by having a big family dinner. Like in any culture, food is one of the highlights during celebrations.
The dinner table is filled with dishes that have symbolic meaning. For example, they serve noodles representing long life, steamed fish means good fortune, and Chinese coin-looking dumplings symbolize wealth.
They also prepare 12 round fruits to invite good fortune into their homes.
Do not forget the famous sweet delicacy tikoy—which is known for being sticky. It is a metaphor for strong family bonds.
Things You Can Do During Chinese New Year in the Philippines
With Chinese New Year being declared as a public holiday in the Philippines, you might as well spend the day doing the things people are accustomed to doing during this celebration.
- Visit temples – If you are looking forward to clearing your mind off yesteryear’s stress, visiting temples might just be the best option for you. People often seek the solemnity of temples to pray and meditate. Wouldn’t it be great to use this time as well to reflect on your life right now and plan where you want to head in the coming year? It can definitely help you welcome the year in a good mood and refreshed soul. When they visit temples, they usually offer flowers, misua, siopao, and fortune buns—all of which are related to starting the year right.
- Reconnect with family members – As mentioned earlier, Chinese-Filipino families gather during this celebration. You can use this time to talk to your cousins or any relative who haven’t you seen in a while. It is important to make memories with your family.
- Give red envelopes – Famously known as “ang pao,” these red envelopes are filled with new bills. The elders or parents usually hand them out to the young or unmarried for good luck. According to Chinese beliefs, the amount of money given should be an even number. Odd numbers are associated with the money given to survived family members during funerals.
How Chinese New Year in the Philippines is Celebrated
If it is not yet clear now, Chinese culture is indeed very colourful. Here are the traditions they follow during Chinese New Year.
- Wearing red – A big part of celebrating Chinese New Year is attracting luck into your families—and wearing red is one way. We all know that red has always been a lucky colour for Chinese. It represents happiness, good luck, and energy.
- Dragon and lion dances and fireworks – The Chinese has always associated dragons to great power, auspiciousness, wisdom, and fertility, making it a very powerful symbol. Dragon and lion dances are performed during the Chinese New Year for good luck. Fireworks, meanwhile, are believed to ward off evil spirits.
- Settling financial obligations – This is probably one of the best ways to clean your slate. Chinese find it necessary to pay off any outstanding debt to start the year in the right direction.
Venues and Specials Events for Celebrating the Chinese New Year in the Philippines
Before spending the evening with your loved ones, you can visit many places during the day.
Located in the country’s capital, Binondo is the world’s oldest Chinatown. You can visit this place to taste different Chinese cuisines from different restaurants and food stalls, pray at temples, and watch dragon and lion dance performances, among others. You can also opt to visit the Chinatown Museum to know more about Filipino-Chinese culture and heritage.
While this Chinatown in Quezon City is not as popular as Binondo, it has its own charm. People also flock to Banawe Chinatown to have a food trip. After all, it is also known for its restaurants.
It is the only Chinatown in Mindanao. The town highlights the different Chinese culture during the celebration of Lunar New Year. The place also boasts of its restaurants offering good Chinese food.
It is an annual film festival in the country’s metropolis—hosted by a prominent hospitality firm in the Philippines—that features Chinese films, promoting Chinese culture and language.
While it is fun to visit several places, it would be much worthwhile if you do this with your friends and family. So, it is best for you to take someone when visiting your go-to places when celebrating Chinese New Year in the Philippines.
Taking into account history, Chinese families were already present in the Philippines dating back to the Spanish regime—a long, long time ago. The community grew eventually as time passed by through intermarriage with Filipino nationals and other races as well.
Apart from their community expanding, the Chinese were able to impart their culture, tradition, and food with the Filipino. Until now, you can see their influences in the local tapestry.