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Chinese New Year, more than attracting luck

FIESTANG CHINOY. Students of St. Joseph School perform lion and dragon dances and render various musical presentations during the Fiestang Chinoy held Tuesday, Feb. 5, in celebration of Chinese New Year with a parade and program/cultural presentation at Plaza Quezon. The annual event is being spearheaded by the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Naga Chapter, St. Joseph School, and the City Government of Naga. CEPPIO

MANILA --- Chinese New Year is one of the most important holidays for the Filipino-Chinese community in the Philippines, with the occasion largely recognized as a time when families reunite. In the Philippines, the Chinese New Year is a special non-working holiday that gives both Chinese-Filipinos and Filipinos in the country a chance to enjoy the celebration with their loved ones. "Chinese New Year in China, even here in the Philippines, it (now) means bringing together the family," 73-year-old Fernando Gan said in an interview. The same goes for Dante Chua, a 60-year-old Chinese entrepreneur from Fujian, China. "Here in the Philippines, we have a lot of Chinese here and for us here, our Chinese New Year translates to getting together," he said. During this time of the year, the much-loved "tikoy" or glutinous rice cakes that are a staple during Chinese New Year flood the market. Malls start to hang "kung hei fat choi" or "gong xi fa cái" banners in bold red and lion and dragon dance performances are seen all over -- all synonymous to wishes of prosperity and good luck for the new year. In celebrating the event, Chua said his family prefers sticking to "a simple banquet" and the regular tikoy-giving to neighbors.

Since the Chinese culture is deeply-rooted in the Philippines, Filipinos join the celebration by preparing tikoy and Chinese food, consulting Feng Shui experts, and reading Chinese horoscope. Although China's quaint traditions remain alive -- from giving red envelopes filled with "lucky money", serving traditional dishes that symbolize wealth, to donning bright red clothing (and underclothing) to attract luck -- the occasion had a momentary hiatus, as well as a modern turn beginning when China adopted the Western calendar. Chinese New Year rites previously held religious values as rituals were offered to deities and ancestors. When China adopted the Gregorian calendar in the 1900s, the Chinese acknowledged January 1 as the first day of the New Year. In dealing with the West, China in the 1940s kept this and forbade the celebration of the customary Lunar New Year. It was only a few decades after that the Chinese leaders became more accepting of the old tradition. In 1996, a weeklong holiday was granted to Chinese people allowing them to celebrate what is now called the Spring Festival. Meanwhile, in the Philippines, expected to top as the busiest district every Lunar New Year is Binondo, one of the oldest Chinatowns in the world where streets come alive with different lion and dragon dances, and the din of their overlapping tunes. On February 5, when the Year of the Pig falls, a grand parade is expected from Jaboneros St. to Reina Regente St. A large part of the Filipino-Chinese community in the city already started the celebration with a countdown on Monday, featuring a four-hour performance culminating in a grand fireworks display at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila.

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