Major malls have already taken down their Christmas decorations and replaced them with red lanterns heralding the coming of the Chinese New Year on February 5. With an estimated 1.8 million Filipino-Chinese in the country, it’s no wonder the Philippines joins in the merriment every Chinese New Year—it’s even been declared a national holiday!
With approximately 1% of the population having Chinese roots, it’s high time we learn a little more about these Chinese New Year traditions. Read on to learn more about the Lunar New Year traditions of our Chinese brothers and sisters—join in the fun, foster stronger connections, and maybe ring in a little luck for the Year of the Pig.
Wearing red. Colors are a big thing in Chinese culture, with certain hues representing different elements and symbolizing different values. Red is a prominent color during festive occasions and is traditionally worn on Chinese New Year as it is considered an auspicious color symbolizing joy and good fortune.
Giving out ang pao. These are red envelopes containing money and are usually given during weddings, graduations, and the birth of a baby. On Chinese New Year, ang paos are given by elders, parents, and married couples to the young as well as to unmarried elders. The red packets normally contain new bills, and the amount is an even number—there’s usually an “8” as it’s thought to be lucky. (The number 4 is avoided, though, as it’s associated with death.)
If you’d like to spread the good luck to family members abroad, why not send them a virtual ang pao? Messaging app WeChat introduced the WeChat red envelope in 2014, which allows money to be sent via mobile payments. Other apps have since followed suit, and this virtual red envelope has since become very popular in China.
Preparing New Year’s Eve dinner. Just as Filipinos have noche buena and media noche, so, too, do the Chinese have a big meal to welcome the New Year. Aside from wearing red to usher in luck, preparing certain dishes that bring in good things is also a must during this festive occasion. Such fare include spring rolls for wealth, lion’s head meatballs for power and strength, and steamed fish for abundance, to name a few.
Feasting on tikoy. This round, glutinous rice cake, also known as nián gāo, is a popular gift during Chinese New Year. It is said to be an offering to the Kitchen God before he makes his trip back to the Jade Emperor as the sticky snack keeps him from saying anything bad about the emperor’s family.
In the Philippines, tikoy is often sliced, dipped in egg, and pan-fried until it’s crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside.
Lighting firecrackers. Firecrackers are said to drive evil spirits away, but in recent years, they have become strictly regulated in the country due to the hazards they pose.
Why not get creative and enjoy a safe “fireworks show” at home? Have your family download a fireworks app, prop all your phones against one wall, and have a symphony of fireworks playing at the same time!
While the Chinese have their own traditions, Chinese New Year activities are really not that different from how Filipinos celebrate—there will always be good food, time spent with our loved ones, and hope that the coming year will bring good fortune.
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