Over five percent of Filipinos are Tsinoys of mixed Filipino and Chinese heritage. Chinese New Year is therefore looked forward to by many Filipinos.
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The New Year is a celebration of the end and beginning of a year based on the lunar calendar. The holiday celebrates the events of the past year, while ushering in good fortune for the upcoming year. The lunar New Year celebrations in the Philippines are approached with the same exciting outlook as they are in Mainland China.
Red Envelopes with money
One of the most popular traditions between parents and children is the gifting of red envelopes. Inside of these envelopes is usually money, but some parents may also opt to give some kind of gift like candy. The Mandarin name for these envelopes is hong bao, but many Tsinoys refer to them as ang pao. This is name for the envelopes in hokkien, the language of Tsinoys and many Chinese people that live away from the mainland.
Other uses of red
For Chinese New Year, red is a colour that represents good luck. Aside from envelopes, people use the colour red in clothing. These are meant to bring luck and ward away evil. According to Chinese legend, evil spirits and monsters are afraid of bright colours such as red. This is why the wearing of red became a tradition in China.
For the same reason, the people of China would have an elaborate fireworks display of red and other colours. While the superstition surrounding the colour is not nearly as serious as it once was, red is still worn during holidays and times when luck is needed. This practice has been carried over to the Philippines through the Tsinoys. Adventurous non-Chinese Filipinos have also adopted the practice of using red during the lunar New Year.
Prior to New Year celebrations, it is customary for people to go through a meticulous cleaning process of the home and body. Exterior walls must be scrubbed, floors must be swept, linens must be cleaned, and everything must be dusted. Traditionally, this cleaning is a show of respect to the family as well as ancestors. It has now taken on the practical purpose of a time to thoroughly clean the home once each year. During this time people also pay close attention to cleaning their bodies. Nails will be trimmed and scrubbed, the body will be washed, and hair will be washed and trimmed. Men will also shave or trim any facial hair.
The mainland tradition of hanging red lanterns on homes and on streets has been adopted by many Tsinoy and Filipino people. It is also common for many businesses in the Philippines to hang a red lantern in celebration of the New Year.
Dragon and lion dances
During the lunar New Year celebration, many people will watch Dragon and Lion Dances that are organised by the Tsinoy people. Teams of four or eight get together to dance down the streets while wearing red costumes of the Lion or Dragon. Both costumes are representative of prestige and good fortune. It is also a tradition for spectators to give the dancers red envelopes with money or some other gift.
Great holidays are known for their food, and the Chinese New Year in the Philippines is no exception. One of the most popular foods to celebrate the lunar New Year is tikoy. This is a sweet treat made of sticky rice. During January and February before the lunar New Year celebrations, tikoy can be purchased in most grocery stores and Chinese shops. This treat is essentially a Filipino spin on the Chinese nian gao, a popular rice cake. Some other popular New Years foods include fish, pansit, and boiled dumplings. These are all related to bringing good fortune in the upcoming year.
Places to celebrate
While there are places to celebrate the lunar New Year all across the Philippines, the most enjoyable locations are areas that have high populations of Tsinoy people. Some of the best areas include Manila’s Binondo District and Quezon City.