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The big, big day of February 14 will not only bear the oh-so anticipated date of love, but also the traditional weekend  of the Chinese Spring Festival, more commonly known as Chinese New Year. [firstpara]
Assuming that each and every one of us Pinoys know someone of Chinese heritage, it pays to know what our Tsinoy friends are doing on Chinese New Year and not suppose that this day is all about eating their delicious tikoy.

What is the Chinese Spring Festival?
Although not as massive locally, this festival is China’s most important traditional holiday. For the Chinese, it is basically Christmas and New Year’s Eve combined, meaning lots of food, presents, and family members.

It is also a basis for a whole year’s luck; cleaning your house on its eve means sweeping away all the bad fortune in hopes to make way for a better one.

The Filipino-Chinese community often holds parties at areas with a large Chinese population, like in Binondo, Manila. This is where the ever-so-popular Chinese dragon and lion dance often comes into play.

The elders love them, while kids are scared of them. Either way, we love how they roam the streets so damn freely. Also, expect even the smallest Chinese restaurants near you to pop a firecracker or two.

How did the tradition come to life?
It’s an interesting story, really. According to tales and legends, a mythical beast named Nien would always come on the first day of the New Year to devour all natives, including children.

Thinking that all the beast wanted was to be fed, families would often prepare a feast and leave it in front of their doors. It was believed that after feeding Nien, the monster has stopped terrorizing them.

The color red and firecracker are also believed to be effective in scaring away the beast, so that’s what they’re basically doing ever since.

Of course the tradition is a celebratory thing these days, and not a way to protect their households. But who knows though, perhaps the said monster is just waiting for the right time to attack again. Harhar! Just kidding.

Why is it set on the same date as Valentine’s Day?
It is quite amazing if you think about it, but the V-day and Chinese New Year falling on the same date is a mere coincidence. Chinese New Years are pre-determined by the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar.

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The year 2010 marks the Year of the Tiger, which last fell on January 28, 1998. Next year’s celebration will fall on February 3, 2011.

What happens on a typical Chinese New Year?
The streets will be painted by the blooming color of red signifying “happiness,” “wealth,” and “longevity.” A New Year’s Eve dinner is typically held at the house of the clan’s most senior family member, featuring dishes only served at this time of year.

Expect red lanterns and decorations everywhere. Red envelopes containing money are also passed around to children or young couples coming from the elderly. Yes people, this is their version of an aginaldo.

Expect your Tsinoy friends to don a more patriotic outfit than the usual, as preferred clothing for the Chinese New Year often involves the color red to scare away evil spirits and bad fortune.

Flowers with different colors are also significant on this day, so we’re guessing the vendors from Dangwa market are twice as happy this weekend.

Ideally, the celebration will actually last for 15 days, with each day signifying a traditional practice. This includes visiting the elderly, avoiding meat and killing animals, wearing new clothes, and special dinners, to name a few. By the 8th day though, celebration is not mandatory anymore. But hey, who wants to impede a celebration, right?

WORDS BY: MIKEY AGULTO

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