News Commentary

Tsinoys set grand New Year celebration

- Doreen Yu -

MANILA, Philippines - Following a tumultuous Year of the Tiger, which draws to a close today, it will be a calmer, more harmonious Year of the Rabbit, the year 4709 in the Chinese calendar.

Although the Chinese New Year festival was not officially declared a holiday this year, Tsinoys will be marking the occasion, probably the most important holiday of the Chinese calendar, with a grand celebration at the Quirino grandstand in Luneta starting at 7 tonight. For the first time, major Tsinoy organizations and schools have come together to collaborate on a grand spectacle of songs, dances, martial arts demonstrations, lion and dragon dances.

Popular stars like Sam Milby, Richard Poon, Christian Bautista, Kim Chiu and many others will join school groups in providing entertainment. A grand fireworks display at midnight will cap the new year countdown. The public is invited to the free event.

Among the organizing groups are the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Chinese-Filipino Business Club, Association of Chinese-Filipino Schools in the Philippines, the Department of Tourism, the City of Manila, Association of Philippine Volunteer Fire Brigades, TXTFIRE Volunteers. 

Ruben Co, president of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Alumni Associations, told The STAR that the Quirino grandstand was chosen because of its historic significance as the site of presidential inaugurations, and also to reestablish it as a venue for celebrations following the tragic Aug. 23, 2010 hostage-taking incident.

While the deaths of eight Hong Kong tourists and the hostage taker greatly saddened the Tsinoy community, Co said they wanted to advance the healing and recovery process by holding this event to support the government’s development efforts, particularly in tourism.   

The Year of the Rabbit – a Golden or Metal Rabbit (the character for gold represents metal among the five elements) – is the perfect time for healing and reconciliation, since the Rabbit is generally regarded as gentle and serene, contented to stay in a quiet grassy corner, happily nibbling away. The year ahead is thus expected to take on this character, and provide welcome respite from the upheavals and drama of the past year. This will be a year of negotiation rather than confrontation, accommodation rather than conflict.

Past Rabbit years bear this out, as it was during Rabbit years that the Vietnam war ended (1975), the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the US and the former Soviet Union was signed, and the latter, under Mikhail Gorbachev, effected the glasnost policy of openness (both in 1987).

The Rabbit tends to avoid conflict since it can leap over obstacles in its path and recover from calamities with resilience. The latter will be a very valuable characteristic this year, especially with regard to natural calamities, since the state weather bureau has warned that the country would experience a greater number of typhoons in 2011, many of which could be very strong and cause much damage.

The Rabbit is the fourth sign in the Chinese astrological chart, following the Rat, Ox and Tiger. Next is the year of the Dragon (which begins on Jan. 23, 2012), followed by the Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.

Aside from these 12 signs, each has five elements Metal (Qin or Gold), Water, Wood, Fire and Earth. Thus, completing a full cycle takes 60 years, which is why the 60th year in a person’s life is very significant and auspicious.

With the growing importance of China as a world power and the popularity of all things Chinois, even non-Chinese – and the semi-Chinese – enthusiastically celebrate the Lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival, with rituals that may or may not have any historic, traditional or psychic value.

I am often asked what one should eat, wear and do for the New Year to ensure good fortune and good prospects for the year ahead. I did not grow up in a Buddhist family so I do not practice many of the rituals associated with the new year. But there are traditions that our family observes, and most of them have – not surprisingly – to do with food.

It is important for the whole family to gather around the New Year’s Eve dinner table. Since we are Hokkien we do not practice the Yu Sheng where a salad is literally tossed in the air, the higher the better. We will, though, definitely have a full table, with a whole fish, a whole pork leg, noodles, glutinous rice cake – the ubiquitous tikoy – among others, to overeat and yet have enough left over, something my grandmother always insisted on as food “to be brought into the new year.” So if you will excuse me, I have to rush home to cook. The family hearth must not be left cold tonight.   

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