Chinese New Year 2017: Popular Customs and Traditions
Which Items to Buy and What Types of Food to Prepare for the Year of the Rooster
The Chinese New Year, known as the Spring Festival in China, is widely celebrated in the Philippines, especially among the Filipino-Chinese community. It’s worth noting that the population of Filipino-Chinese in the country is quite huge and many of the Filipino customs observed today are heavily influenced by them.
For those who are unaware, the Chinese New Year is not celebrated on January 1st. The actual date of the Chinese New Year varies each year, but it always falls between the 21st of January and the 20th of February. Chinese New Year 2017 falls on a Saturday, January 28th.
2017 is the year of the rooster, based on the Chinese 12-year animal zodiac cycle. According to Chinese beliefs, rooster years are the most unlucky for people born on the year of the rooster.
Traditional Items Used to Decorate Homes in the Chinese New Year
The Chinese decorate their homes with various items as part of their tradition. And this tradition has been adopted by many Filipinos to help improve luck, prosperity, and fortune. Here are some of the basic items you will want to buy for the upcoming Chinese New Year:
- Chinese Red Lanterns
According to the custom, these items, which are a work of art by the way, will drive off bad luck from the household. This is why during the Chinese New Year; it is not uncommon to find these decorations hanging in a number of homes.
In China, you will often find these lanterns hanging from trees along the streets, office buildings, and doorways of houses. The Chinese red lantern is also used as a decoration during the Mid-Autumn Festival in China.
- New Year Couplets
New Year couplets, also known as door couplets, are usually pasted on doors. On these couplets, greetings and good wishes for the coming year are usually written in Chinese calligraphy. They’re known as couplets because they need to come in pairs, as Chinese culture associates even numbers with good luck and auspiciousness.
Gold or black ink on red paper is often used in making door couplets. This is because the color red represents vitality and happiness, and gold symbolizes wealth and prosperity, according to Chinese culture.
- Paper Cuttings
Cutting designs out of paper, typically red paper, is also quite common among the Filipino-Chinese community and the Chinese in general. These paper cuttings are then glued on doors and windows or any transparent surface.
The design of the images varies, but different auspicious plants and animals are the most common ones, as each plant or animal represents various wishes.
- Blooming Flowers
Flowers are also a common sight in Chinese households and office buildings, as the bloom of a flower symbolizes the beginning of spring, which is what the Chinese Spring Festival or the Chinese New Year is all about. Blooming flowers also represents well wishes and a prosperous new year.
- Upside-Down Fu Characters
Much like the New Year Couplets and the paper cuttings, the upside-down fu is also a popular Chinese custom observed by a number of Filipino-Chinese. Fu means good fortune. By placing it upside-down, you are essentially wishing good fortune to pour out on everyone in your home. The inverted fu characters are typically pasted on or over doorways.
Traditional Dishes Prepared for the Chinese New Year
Bringing good luck, fortune, and prosperity to your home doesn’t just involved decorative items. It’s also in the types of food you prepare on the eve of the Chinese New Year. Here are some of the most common dishes you might want to prepare:
- Fish (Any fish dish, but preferably whole)
Fish is a popular main ingredient in the dishes that are prepared during the Chinese New Year, as it symbolizes prosperity. And when prepared whole, it represents unity among the family.
- Rice Cake (Bibingka, Kutsinta, Palitaw, Puto, Sapin-Sapin, Suman)
Among the Chinese, the tradition of eating rice cake goes back many generations, 3,000 years worth to be precise. The eating of the rice cake celebrates the beginning of the rice harvest. And it symbolizes increasing prosperity year after year.
- Sweet Rice Balls (Rice Dumplings, Carioca)
Eating sweet rice balls or rice dumplings, most commonly called carioca in the Philippines, is another common tradition practiced by many Chinese-Filipinos. The roundness of this sweet dessert represents the harmony and unity that exists within the family.