The celebration of the Chinese New Year in the Philippines can be likened to a festivity of cultural amalgamation between the Chinese and Filipinos. Today, the 10th of February 2013 is the Chinese New Year which is incidentally the Year of the Water Snake. But, how well many of us knew about its origin? Perhaps, this article will provide you some vital information as regard to the beginning and evolution of the Chinese New Year; and how it has enormously influenced the rich Filipino culture in general. Historically, it is ascribed as the most significant Chinese traditional holidays in the world. In China, it is popularly known as the “Spring Festival”.
Actually, the latter is said to be the literal translation of Chinese New Year. Meanwhile, the celebration of this jovial and momentous event in the lives of the Chinese people commonly begins from the Chinese New Year and the first day of the month of the Chinese calendar, the so-called Lantern Festival and until the 15th day of the month.
Etymologically, the Chinese New Year has dramatically evolved from numerous myths and traditions. Primarily, this colorful and glamorous occasion is being celebrated in Chinese territories like Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius and the Philippines. Elsewhere, this very splendid and bewitching event is likewise famous in Chinatowns. Accordingly, it is further believed that the New Year of the Chinese is very much influential on a lunar year commemorations among its geographic neighbors.
As far as China is concerned, the month long revelry in connection with this timeless observance of the Chinese culture which varies every year. In fact, majority of the Filipinos and Chinese alike in their own special ways are spending a fortune to buy sumptuous foods, gifts home ornaments, clothing and lucky charms. Prior to the onset of this particular year in the Chinese calendar, every Chinese household tries to preserve and uphold their rituals of cleansing the auspicious sections of their homes in order to prevent the presence of negative energies which tend to affect the flow of positive vibrations within the parameters of their respective abodes.
Like for instance, to avoid ill-fortunes from coming their way, the Chinese oftentimes decorate their windows with cuts of red colored paper and cute couplets that invite good fortune, happiness, wealth, good health and long life. On the eve of Chinese New Year, a family will feast on some food like pigs, ducks, sweet delicacies and chicken. Hence, they will cap the night with firecrackers and incessant merrymakings to drive away bad spirits.
The next day, children are obliged to greet their parents for a healthy and prosperous New Year all throughout the culmination of the Water Snake Year. Then, their siblings will give them some money which is wrapped in tiny, red envelopes. Purposely, the Chinese New Year is the best time to forgive and forget all the grudges and wrongdoings of a person against anyone in particular. This is to harmoniously reconcile the broken gaps between two or more people. Instead, everyone should wish their brothers and sisters the best of luck for a span of one whole year.
Interestingly, the calendar of the Chinese does not employ a continuous number of years just like in the Gregorian calendar of the Filipinos. But, these hardworking and thrifty people start their numbering of the years from the first day of the Yellow Emperor’s reign. However, there are at least three different years that are being numbered which begin from number 1. These numbers are being employed by different scholars; thus, these figures will make each year to begin in 2012 AD, together with 4710, 4709 and 4649 AD as well.
Chinese New Year in the Philippines
The Chinese New Year is one of the merriest festivities of Chinese ancestry around the world. But in the Philippines, this is not considered as a public holiday unlike their Christmas and New Year celebrations. It is simply because this fluvial tradition of the Chinese does not in any way follow the Gregorian calendar. Basically, the New Year of the Chinese does not have a fixed date. Moreover, the start of its celebration lasts for about 15 days with different observations and rituals for each passing day.
In the Philippines, the culture and traditions of the Chinese New Year had begun since the time of the Spanish regime when small communities of Chinese had already sprouted in the dazzling and magnificent 7,107 islands of the Pearl of the Orient Seas. Incidentally, it dates back during the onset of the16th century. Over the years, these communities of Chinese migrants are too much engrossed in interracial or mixed marriages among Filipinos. As their demographic number grew to an increasing number, the grandiose festivity also became more joyous and fulfilling to be critically observed and emulated at times for a majority of Pinoys.
Therefore, there are some known lawmakers in the previous years which had made several legal propositions to make it a legal public holiday in the Philippines. However, there are ongoing debates which need to be resolved to make these suggestions feasible. To some, the main reason why it must not be recognized as a holiday in the Philippines is because it could be detrimental to the economy of the country by triggering increasing holiday incentives for the employees of both Chinese and Filipino firms, that are established in the country; as provided in Republic Act 9492 which states that for every legal non-working holiday all business and working establishments should provide incentives or overtime pays to their employees.
The symbols of the Chinese New Year in the Philippines are of different kinds.-The Dragon, a sweet delicacy referred to as “tikoy” and firecrackers to drive away bad spirits. During its observance, Filipino-Chinese families expect to attract prosperity, peace, harmony and closer family ties for one whole year. Most of them prepare different kinds of fruits on their tables to symbolize and magnetize the energy of good luck. On the streets, people actively participate in a dragon dance and other related activities which are organized by affluent Chinese families in cooperation with different organizations of the Filipino-Chinese communities.
Significance of the Lion and Dragon Dance
Traditionally, the Chinese and Filipinos will not a let a single day pass during the 15-day celebration of the Chinese New Year without joining the glamorous and elegant Lion and Dragon dance. This is mainly done in the busy district of Binondo, Manila. It is commonly alluded to as the “Chinatown”. The Lion and Dragon dance is held in other places across the country where there are sizeable numbers of Chinese constituents. Symbolically, the Lion dance is represented by a lion’s head which is described to be as huge. Meanwhile, its body constitution is comprised of a long and colorful piece of cloth.
To excellently perform the said ritual of the Chinese, the dancers must strongly hold the head the lion and they must be skillful as well, in its manipulation through an animated manner. As this lively activity is going on, homeowners hang their “ang pao” on top of their entrance gates to be picked up by the lion dancers themselves; until the culmination of that sacred ritual. Along this line, is their a best way to tell whether it is the lion or the dragon that moves during this sacred dance?
According to the Chinese, the dragon possesses a much longer body as compared to a lion. Thus, there is a need for it to be controlled by eight or more persons. Lastly, poles prop its body. On the other hand, the lion has only four legs which are simultaneously manipulated by two dancers respectively. One is responsible for its head movement while the other takes charge of its tail end.
How Should Filipinos Prepare for the Chinese New Year?
Good fortune is always associated with Chinese New Year. “Do you want to know the five easy steps to have it according to Chinese beliefs? Here are the five easy ways.
1. Ornament your house with five red scrolls on which several Chinese characters written on More so, hang Chinese lanterns
2. Place some blooming and plenty plants around your house. These greens symbolize vitality and life renewal
3. Pay all your unsettled debts
4. Clean your house thoroughly prior to the start of the Chinese New Year’s first day
5. Go and get yourself a decent haircut. But, if you can afford buy some new clothes
The Chinese New Year is a traditional celebration of a good life and abundant fortune. Nevertheless, the streaks and smiles of prosperity lie in the principles of PRAYER, HUMBLENESS and PERSEVERANCE, that nobody can ever question nor argue about.