Chinese New Year falls on January 28 this year, the first day of the new moon, ushering in the year of the fire rooster.
For most Chinese communities in the Philippines the start of the year is celebrated for 15 days, with preparations already underway three months before the big day. The best time to see the festival is on January 28 when a 228-foot Manila Chinatown millennium dragon, trailed by two smaller dragons, two southern and northern lions, two unicorns, nine carps, and a phoenix parade through the streets of Binondo in Manila. The dragon dance, definitely the highlight of the celebration, is said to ward off evil spirits and make for an auspicious start to the year. Dragon dance services are offered by groups like the Ling Nam Athletic Federation.
During this time, Binondo’s shops are filled with all kinds of good luck ornaments and charms, “good luck” food or food you need to eat on the day for a good start to the year. The celebration ends with a Lantern Festival and a fireworks display. Fireworks are to drive away the evil Nian, believed to be afraid of loud sounds.
TEMPLE VISITS AND FENGSHUI CONSULTATIONS
Temple visits are also observed during the festival, with the Kuang Kong Temple on Kipuja Street, Binondo, dedicated to the Chinese God of War, quite popular, particularly with businessmen in the district. It is located on the second floor and is open to the public. Visitors can take three incense sticks and offer them at the entrance of the temple. Another temple worth visiting is the artfully-decorated Santo Sing Kong Buddhist Church on Morga Street, Tondo. The temple has a hundred little statues of Buddhist deities on wooden pillars. Guests can ask questions and get a written response. Try attending one of the masses held every Sunday at 930am, and getting a feng shui consultation on a Saturday from 9:30am up to 12 noon. The temple is open from 6am to 5pm. Tel +632 242 0086. There’s also the Seng Guan Temple on Narra Street, Binondo and the Hsien Tiak Taoist Temple to visit if you want to go temple-hopping.
CHINESE NEW YEAR RITUALS
Before the start of the Chinese New Year, most Chinese households go through the ritual of cleansing or thoroughly cleaning their houses and offices. According to Princess Lim-Fernandez, feng shui expert and co-founder of Yin & Yang Shop of Harmony, “cleaning removes the bad luck from the old year, making it easier to welcome the good fortune of the coming year”.
Other traditions include wearing newly bought clothes and donning a new hairstyle, visiting relatives to show filial piety and respect. When couples visit relatives, they normally bring gifts like a box of biscuits, chocolates or fruits, says Fernandez. Couples usually give angpao (lucky money) to the younger members of the family and to younger single relatives.
Food. Chinese tradition calls for having certain types of food on the table for the lunar new year. According to Fernandez, the dining table should have some fresh fruit like pomelos, oranges, apples, pineapples, and bananas, as well as sweet candies and peanuts. The rice container should be full and should contain lucky money, P168 placed inside an angpao. This symbolizes the “road to prosperity”. On top of the rice container, put red carrots, celery, spring onions and lotus root. “This means the family will always have food to eat and there will be harmony,” Fernandez said. The celery and spring onions mean members of the family will be hardworking and clever.
Feng shui master Aldric Dalumpines suggests preparing pinapple surrounded by eight sweet fruits on Chinese New Year's Eve. "Pineapple welcomes prosperity and in the Chinese numerology, eight means 'double prosperity' while nine means 'doubling'," he says.
Glutinous rice cakes like puto and the Chinese New Year cake called tikoy should be served with dim sum specialties like shui mai (siomai). There should be a whole chicken and Peking duck for family harmony, roast pig and a whole fish. When the fish is served, it should face the breadwinner of the family.
You can buy roast whole Peking duck and a whole fish at Peking Garden (Tel +632 729 0567), roast pig from Lydia’s Lechon (118 Timog Avenue, Quezon City). Goldilocks (Basement Level at The Landmark, Makati Avenue, Makati City) sells good puto, while tikoy is not hard to find in Binondo, and available in all local supermarkets like The Landmark during the festival season. For the best hopia, try Eng Bee Tin at Food Choices, Glorietta 4, Ayala Center, Makati City.
Feng shui master Aldric Dalumpines has been a fengshui consultant for over three decades now. His clients include actors Edu Manzano and Zsa-zsa Padilla, and local politicians and businessmen. His corporate clients also include resorts like Misibis Bay in Albay, Midas Hotel and Casino in Pasay City, Azalea resort group, and Balesin, an upscale, members only resort in Quezon. Watch his show "Punsoy" on Isawwwtv, follow him on Facebook, tel +63999 312 8168.
Princess Lim-Fernandez is co-founder and feng shui expert at the Yin & Yang Shop of Harmony located at New World Makati Hotel in Makati City. She has clients in the Philippines and other parts of Asia, Europe, and the US. The Yin & Yang Shop of Harmony. Tel +632 752 5882.
Originally published in InFlight Traveller December 2015-February 2016. Updated January 27, 2017