Chinese New Year

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Chinese New Year (also known as Spring Festival) is the first day of the Chinese calendar, which follows the lunar year cycle. It is the major festivity of the Philippine Chinese community or Tsinoys. The celebration may fall on any day from January 21 to February 21 depending on when the first new moon of the lunar year comes. Each year is named for one of twelve animals in turn: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, or Pig. Traditionally, festivities commence as early as the 23rd day of the 12th moon of the lunar calendar, and end with the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the new year. It is not an official Philippine holiday, so students in Chinese schools usually only get an afternoon off. But while the "Tsinoys" do not get New Year’s day off, they still celebrate it.


The festival falls before China’s planting season, when the ground is still frozen. Since farmers had to wait for the soil to thaw, they traditionally spent the time waiting making offerings of gratitude to the gods.

New Year dates

Each year is said to have a particular character, depending on the traits of the animal that governs it.

  • 2008 - Feb. 7 (Rat)
  • 2009 - Jan. 26 (Ox)
  • 2010 - Feb. 14 (Tiger)
  • 2011 - Feb. 3 (Rabbit)
  • 2012 - Jan. 23 (Dragon)
  • 2013 - February 10 (Snake)
  • 2014 - January 31 (Horse)
  • 2015 - February 19 (Sheep)
  • 2016 - February 8 (Monkey)
  • 2017 - January 28 (Rooster)
  • 2018 - February 16 (Dog)
  • 2019 - February 5 (Pig)


  • Families make offerings to the gods, especially the Kitchen God, who is responsible for reporting everything that transpires throughout the year to the Emperor of all Gods. They offer the Kitchen God sweet foods so he will report sweet things. Tikoy, a sticky pudding, is not only a favorite treat on this occasion, it is a favorite offering to the Kitchen Gods since it is said to be capable of keeping the God's jaw glued shut, to prevent him from making an unfavorable report. After the food offerings are all made, an image of the Kitchen God is put on a paper chair and set on fire so he can "ride the flames" to heaven. He returns at the height of the New Year's Eve celebrations.
  • Red is the favorite color for Chinese New Year clothing and decorations, as it is said to bring good luck. Since it symbolizes fire, it is believed to ward away evil and to frighten away a legendary monster that terrorizes people on New Year’s Eve.
  • Families have reunions for New Year’s Eve dinner either in their homes or in restaurants.
  • Fireworks are set off at midnight since it is said that the noise and the fire frightens bad spirits away. This is rooted in an old custom of lighting bamboo stalks to scare bad spirits.
  • Doors and windows are opened at midnight to let out the evil of the old year and let in the luck and prosperity of the New Year.
  • There is a belief that the later children stay awake, the longer they and their parents will live, so children stay up past midnight to welcome the New Year.
  • After midnight, children receive ang pao -- red envelopes containing cash, with the words hi (happiness), sin (long life), and kiong hi huat tsai (congratulations and prosperity) printed on it.
  • On New Year’s Day people greet each other with kiong hi or kung hei fat choi (congratulations and be prosperous).
  • The most colorful New Year ritual is the dragon dance, or lion dance. An enormous dragon/lion head, with a long body of colorful fabric, performs a vibrant and energetic dance manipulated by skilled operators. In Manila, many lion dancers roam the streets of Binondo.
  • Residents who want the dragons/lions to cleanse their homes and bring good fortune hang an ang pao at the top of their gates. The lion dancers demonstrate their strength and skill as they climb to reach the red envelopes. After getting an envelope, the dragon/lion does a short victory dance, bows three times in thanks, and moves on to look for the next one.
  • Traditionally all debts should be settled before the beginning of the New Year. Since a new year is a chance for a new beginning, it is considered best to start it off with a clean slate.


The foods served during Chinese New Year are mostly symbolic since Chinese believe food can directly affect one’s fortune in the coming year. Dining tables are loaded with food to ensure prosperity and abundance in the new year. Dishes or ingredients are chosen that will bring good luck, long life, and happiness. Sometimes the name of the dish itself is auspicious as it is a homophone for a word with a good meaning. These are some of the favorites of the favorites.

8-Treasure Chicken (Pat Po Kwe)
A dish made with a whole chicken, which symbolizes a good marriage and family unity. Duck, which represents fidelity, may also be used for the dish, though chicken is preferred. The chicken is deboned and stuffed with ingredients like sticky rice, dried shredded scallops, minced Chinese ham, dried shrimps, lotus seeds and other spices. Sticky rice also signifies family unity while lotus seeds symbolize fertility.
Also known as Chinese New Year pudding, tikoy is made up of glutinous rice flour, wheat starch, salt, water, and sugar. The color of the sugar used determines the color of the pudding (white or brown). It is cut in pieces, dipped in egg and fried. Not only is it made with the glutinous rice that ensures family unity, it is in a round shape with means unending prosperity.
Pancit Canton or Bihon
This is is served because the long noodles are said to signify a long, prosperous life.
Usually eaten on the eve of Chinese New Year. In Chinese the word for fish is a homophone for the word for "surplus" or "extra." It is best to serve the fish whole, with bones, head and tail intact, to ensure abundance and a good beginning and end to the new year.
This is said to bring happiness and well-being.
Boiled dumplings
In northern China they were traditionally eaten because the method of preparing them suggests packing in luck. In addition, the word for dumplings sounds like the word for the hour of the transition to the new year.
Green vegetables
Said to forge close family ties.
This is said to bring a sweet year.
Sunflower, squash, or melon seeds
Believed by some to ensure happiness in the new year.