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PHL welcomes Chinese New Year 2011

By Avegail de Vera

MANILA, Jan. 30 — The Filipino celebration of the Chinese New Year is another way to prove the diversity of culture in the country.

In fact, the streets in Binondo, particularly Chinatown, have already been decorated for this most-anticipated event on February 3.

Since the Spanish regime, small Chinese community had grown bigger due to intermarriage among Filipino natives and Chinese. The growth of Filipino-Chinese community has made the festivity of the Chinese New Year celebration more popular.

In fact, lawmakers have proposed to make the Chinese New Year a legal public holiday. However, the proposal came late because President Aquino had already issued Proclamation 84, which already lined up the regular and special holidays for 2011.

At the height of the Chinese New Year celebration, people in the country, especially the Filipino-Chinese community, follow certain traditions in the hope of attracting prosperity, closer family ties and peace.

To welcome good fortune and prosperity, people clean their houses thoroughly, prepare lucky money in red envelopes, serve sweet foods and display various food and fruits on the table.

Cleaning the house is believed to sweep away any bad luck that may have accumulated over the past year. It should be done before New Year's day and not on the day itself because it's the day to welcome good luck.

Giving red envelopes, also known as "ang pao" in the Philippines, is a very common way of giving cash gift to grandchildren, godchildren and employees. Its red color symbolizes luck and the gold Chinese characters on it often mean happiness and wealth.

If there's one food that would symbolize the Chinese New Year in the country, it would be 'tikoy'. In other countries, it is known as 'nian gao' which is made from sticky or glutinous rice, grounded into flour and then mixed with lard, water and sugar.

Even non-Chinese Filipinos buy tikoy in boxes during this time of the year to give to business associates or share with their friends and co-workers.

Chinese believe Kitchen Gods watch over each family and record what they do throughout the year. In order to keep the Kitchen God's mouth shut, they offer tikoy to others, which would keep them from saying anything bad about the person.

Among other popular food in the country during this holiday are: pancit, which means longer life; whole fish for good fortune; pineapples and other round fruits for prosperity.

As part of annual celebration, there is also the traditional dragon and lion dance held in the streets. They are meant to get rid of bad luck and evil spirits in the community.

The dragon dance, composed of a team of 10 to 50 persons, is meant to be performed in the streets

Lion dance, composed of four persons: two for the dragon’s head and tail, and another two for playing the drums and chin chang, can go inside homes or business establishments and usually receive ang paos.

In Metro Manila, the Department of Tourism (DOT) and SM Mall of Asia (MOA) tied up for the first-ever lion dance competition held last January 29, to welcome Chinese New Year and promote culture and heritage of the metropolis.

The SM Mall of Asia became the venue for the competing 12 lions dance troupes, which showcased Filipino's creativity, art, expertise and athleticism in the field of lion dancing.

This is just an early welcome for the Chinese New year as the countdown will be held at the Quirino Grandstand on Chinese New Year’s Eve on February 2.

There will also be lion dances which can be watched hourly throughout the New Year in different parts of Binondo. (PNA)

DCT/AdeV/jsd

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