Happy New Year (again!)
February is the love month in the Philippines, just like in any other country in the world. In addition to Valentine’s Day, another special occasion is usually celebrated on the second month of the year—the Chinese New Year.
With its rich history of Chinese trade and immigration dating back to the pre-Spanish colonization era, the Philippines has long been partaking of the Chinese New Year tradition.
The Chinese New Year falls on a Sunday, February 10, just a couple of days shy of V-day. The Chinese lunar calendar is very different from the Gregorian calendar, which places the start of the new year on the first day of January. The Chinese New Year is not an official holiday, so expect to see all commercial establishments in full swing during this time. However, there may be Chinese-owned businesses that will close shop to honor this occasion.
The heart of the new year festivities will be held in the many Filipino-Chinese communities all over the country, particularly in Chinatown, Binondo.
Welcome The Water Snake
2013 is the year of the water snake, and the preparations for its coming have been in full swing in the preceding weeks. Water is of course an essential element to attracting good luck, peace, and prosperity for the rest of the year.
Feng shui experts are doing a booming business as patrons try to make sure that 2013 becomes an auspicious year for business, love, and life in general. Pastry shops are also busy around this time, as many residents, Filipino and Chinese alike, stock up on their favorite tikoy creations for the New Year.
Tikoy or nian gao is a food item traditionally served during the Chinese New Year because its sticky-sweet nature symbolizes the hope for a closely-knit, peaceful family life throughout the coming year. Whereas in this past this sweet treat was served plain, there are now a variety of flavors to pick from, including pandan, chocolate, and ube. The main ingredients remain to be glutinous rice and flour, and you can enjoy this delicacy on its own or paired with dumplings, pansit or hopia.
If you find yourself outdoors in old Manila on the eve of the new year, head on over to Chinatown to watch the firecracker displays and dragon and lion dances held right in the streets. The Chinese believe that it is important to scare away bad spirits with loud sounds, so you will encounter lots of drumbeats and high-decibel music pouring out of speakers all around the area.
And if that’s not enough of a thrilling fix for you, join a photowalk session on February 10 to see all of old Manila’s hidden delights on the first day of the lunar new year.