A delicious Chinese New Year in Manila

So, here we are again. Mid-January, and just a couple of weeks away from slithering out of the Year of the Snake into the Year of the Horse. Yes, Chinese New Year is just a few weeks away. As usual there are a host of exciting things going on across the country. There are five major events that happen during the festivities: Dragon and Lion Dances on the street are one of the best known sights on the day, but most Chinese families also have feasts too. The three other celebrations are: fireworks, drinking and gambling.

Chinese food is one of the biggest exports of that vast and ancient culture. Wherever you go in the world you will find a China Town with lots of restaurants offering mouth-watering delicacies. Chinese New Year is an excellent opportunity to go and savour some of these, as many eateries start selling their food on the street. This makes the ideal opportunity for you to stroll around enjoying the high energy of the celebrations while snacking on dumplings and what not. One of the key treats enjoyed in Manila over the Chinese New Year is Tikoy, this is a sweet snack made from wheat starch, rice flour, salt and sugar. It is supposed to symbolize harmony among friends and family.

Indigenous forms of lion and dragon dances are found all over the South East Asia and always come out at New Year. The lion dance contains only two performers, unlike the dragon which has many people inside, both dances are believed to bring good luck to those who perform and watch them. The best place to watch these dances in Manila is Binondo district where you will find huge parade’s of dancers and their supporters.

Then of course there’s the fireworks. Did you know that gunpowder was invented by the Chinese? Yes, they invented it to use in fireworks up to 2,000 years ago. Sadly the substance then spread about the world, where it became used in weapons. However, originally gunpowder was for beautiful displays and having fun, rather than death and war. The history of fireworks is fascinating.

Booze of course is easy enough to understand, so we’ll pass swiftly on to gambling, that other vital component of Chinese New Year. What people bet on varies from place to place. Traditionally, Chinese people play Mah Jong, while Vietnamese (who celebrate New Year on the same day, they call Tết) play a game called Bầu cua cá cọp. However is it perfectly possible to play whatever modern game you like the best – you can play foxy bingo and then tweet about it with your friends to their Twitter account. Chinese New Year is so adaptable and versatile, new technologies and habits are happily adopted as part of the festivities.

Finally, this coming year is The Year of the Horse, but what does this mean? Prior to the arrival of the car, horses were the main means of transportation across most of the world and thus extremely important. In the Chinese Zodiac they represent speed and success, people born in this year tend to be highly competitive. The animal is also associated with showing off, romance and intelligence. So, we have all this to look forward to… as well as yummy noodles. One last thing, the proper greeting at Chinese New Year is ‘Kiong Hee Huat Tsai’ or possibly ‘Kung Hei Fat Choi’.

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