Kong Hee Hat Chay

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By Ver Pacete

As I See It

Saturday, February 2, 2013

“MAY your life be prosperous!” The Chinese name their years after the animals of the Chinese zodiac… dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, pig, rat, ox, tiger, and rabbit. This belief is based on legend and could have been the influence of Buddhism on the culture of the Chinese.

The folklore says that when Buddha Siddhartha Gautama was born, these twelve animals came to worship him. The rat was the first animal to pay homage. The last to arrive was the pig. The Chinese based their twelve-cycle observance on the order of the arrival. The Chinese followed the two calendars, the universally used calendar (just like the calendars distributed by the politicians and the commercial establishments) and the traditional lunar calendar which reckons the days according to the moon’s waxing and waning.

The Gregorian calendar was only adopted in China in 1912. It is followed by the Chinese to cope with the events of the world but there are still Chinese traditional feast days like the New Year which is still based on the lunar calendar. That could be the reason why the Chinese have two New Year celebrations. The Chinese New Year that follows the lunar calendar coincides with the new moon and may occur anytime between January 21 and February 19. This year, the Lunar New Year falls on Sunday, February 10.


The Chinese ancestors believed that long ago there was an evil spirit called Nian that was responsible for bringing darkness and severe cold winter. The evil spirit killed many people. The Chinese met together and made a plan. On a midnight of a moonless night, they burned bamboo which crackled and popped. The elders started to beat the gongs and the drums. The bright light and the extreme sound frightened Nian. Nian never returned. Without Nian, there was the warm air of spring.

The Chinese went out to the streets singing, dancing and sharing food. They rejoiced while saying, “Quo Nianhao!”(It is good to have Nian go!) That event lives on and has become tradition. Today, the Chinese greet each other without mentioning Nian. Nian has been replaced with ‘year’. My Chinese friend would always send me a text message, “It’s very good to have the old year go.” This is equivalent to our “Have a merry nochebuena” at the eve of December 31.

The Chinese New Year’s Eve is always celebrated with wonderful firecrackers or fireworks display and fantastic family meal to celebrate the victory of the Chinese over the evil spirit of the past year. Chinese children greet their grandparents and the elders give them money placed inside the red envelope called ‘ang pao’.

The Chinese in the Philippines have kept their culturally colorful Chinese traditions but they have also learned to embrace many dominant customs of the Filipinos. For convenience and business relationship, the Chinese born in the Philippines and the Chinese who have Filipino husbands or wives would want to be called ‘Tsinoys’. Whatever that means, your guess is as good as mine. Other than dragon dance, lion dance, lantern dance and eating hopia… the Chinese New Year has also adopted the ‘gangnam style celebration’.

It’s fun, really. Many of our politicians wear Chinese costume and join the Chinese community. That is understood. They want ang pao not just siopao from the Tsinoys and one of their strategies is to look like Jackie Chan. “Kong ho sun hee.”

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on February 02, 2013.


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