A Chinoy Celebration


By Czarina Nicole O. Ong – The Chinese are a race overflowing with mystical customs and traditions, and no holiday generates a stricter and more exciting manifestation of their beliefs than the Chinese New Year. Every year when the Chinese lunar calendar begins, the Chinoys (Chinese-Pinoy) are busy buying fruits and all sorts of dishes.

They would initiate a general cleaning of their homes even weeks before the Chinese New Year, and getting rid of the dirt at home also rids one of misfortune. A visit to the hair salon is also a must, and even a simple trim of one’s hair would signify getting rid of all past “baggage.” Basically, it’s a concept of “off with the old and in with the new” for the Chinoys as they welcome the Chinese New Year.

Enter a regular Chinoy household during their much-beloved holiday and you would witness a table laden with five kinds of fruits, most of which are round. There would also be a huge bowl of rice, on top of which are exactly 88 pieces of coins. They would have also prepared 12 kinds of dishes – fish, meat, vegetables, chicken, and pork. Take note – there are no beef dishes, for the Buddhist Chinese believe that it is wrong to eat beef.

The food on their table is carefully chosen and each has its own significance. As for the fruits, the most popular choices are oranges and pomelos. Oranges signify wealth, while the pomelo signifies abundance. Together, these two spell an abundance of wealth. Noodles, of course, mean long life. As for the sweet, sticky delicacies, the most popular of which is the tikoy, these are said to bind a family closer to each other.

Some would also include canned goods in their table, and it is important to note that all items add up to an even number. Before eating, however, some Chinoys would light two pieces of red candles and three pieces of incense in front of the god of the earth, known to most as Tho Ti Kong. He would also be offered with three dishes: a whole chicken, complete with head and feet; one whole fish, usually lapu-lapu, complete with its head and tail; and a big piece of liempo, pata, or lechon kawali. By doing these things, Tho Ti Kong is believed to open doors for deceased loved ones so they could finally eat.

But aside from the food, the Chinese are also prepared when it comes to their wardrobe selection for that day. It’s quite obvious that red is the color of choice, especially for the elderly Chinese. But younger generations like to veer a little away from the striking red and wear pinks and oranges. These colors are also acceptable, just as long as the shades are bright, happy, and positive.

Some Chinese villages and compounds will also be enlivened by the energetic dragon dance. The dragon is said to be the most powerful animal in the Chinese zodiac, and is closely linked to Chinese royalty. Before, only emperors were allowed to use the symbol of the dragon. Ordinary folks were forbidden to use the dragon symbol, but now that no such rules apply, a dragon dance in one’s home is said to scare away all negative vibes. As a finale, the dragon would “eat” a red envelope, known popularly as the angpao, which is strategically placed by homeowners in the middle of their gates or doors.

Angpaos are also prepared for children and relatives. The elderly Chinese would hand these out during family get-togethers. Much like Filipinos, Chinoys believe that it is important to spend this holiday with close family and relatives, and eating a meal with the whole family is essential in making the holiday a successful one.

The traditions and practices of the Chinese are definitely aplenty, and these vary from family to family. But one thing common among all these Chinese families is that they look forward to the Chinese New Year with much enthusiasm and hope. After all, if you work hard for your luck and success, these two things will naturally come to you. Kung Hei Fat Choi!

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