Today is Chinese New Year, also called Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival. It is the most important festival in China. Reports say tens of millions of people in China headed to their rural hometowns starting Friday to keep the tradition of celebrating the start of the new year with their families.
In the Philippines and in many Asian countries with large Chinese communities, Chinese New Year is celebrated in a grand fashion which starts with the reunion of families. It will be followed by many customs that will bring color and a reminder that tradition will live on – honoring ancestors, giving lucky money in red envelopes to children, Tikoy to adults for good luck, cleaning the house of any lingering bad luck, displaying round fruits to attract good fortune, and a display of fireworks.
Throughout the celebration which lasts for 15 days, there will be dragon and lion dances around Chinatown and in business establishments where the custom is performed as a way to welcome good fortune in the coming year.
Today, the festival will also welcome the Year of the Rabbit, one of the 12 animals, each with its own unique characteristics that can help bring good luck and good fortune. The Rabbit is one of the 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac signs which legend says is the result of the Jade Emperor selecting 12 animals to be his guards. The 12 animals are the: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.
“The Rabbit Year is zenith or peak of the Spring season, so we see an almost full re-emergence of the world, from the winter season brought about by the pandemic,” Patrick Lim Fernandez, well-known Feng Shui and Chinese Metaphysics expert, said.
“The Spring years of the Chinese Zodiac started with the Year of the Tiger in 2022, and continues through the Year of the Rabbit this 2023. It ends with the Year of the Dragon in 2024 when we enter into the summer years. As such, this a time and period for reinvention, rebirth, and reintegration into society,” he said.
Filipinos have a close affinity with Chinese culture, and many Chinese customs are integrated into Filipino life. According to history, as early as the 10th century, trade with Chinese merchants who sailed to the Philippines had already started. Small Chinese communities have existed in the country since the Spanish time, dating back to the 16th century. Chinatown in Binondo is the oldest in the world, established in 1594. Today, many big businesses in the country are owned and Filipino-Chinese businessmen.
Chinese New Year begins with the new moon that occurs sometime between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20, and its festivities last for 15 days. The festival is said to have started 3,500 years ago, and through the years it has become seeped with myth and tradition that has inspired other people even those without Chinese ancestry, to follow its practices.
The name “Lunar New Year” is because the dates of celebration follow the phases of the moon, while its name “Spring Festival” is because it marks the beginning of Spring.
We wish the Chinese community, and all those who honor the tradition, a “Happy Chinese New Year!”
May all go well with you!