There has been a significant Chinese presence in the Philippines even before the Spaniards arrived in the 15th century. Chinese Filipinos currently number four million, making up five percent of the Philippine population.
Chinese Filipinos celebrate the Lunar New Year in January or February. It is not an official holiday in the Philippines, but students in Chinese schools are let out early.
CHINESE-FILIPINO TRADITIONS ASSOCIATED WITH THE LUNAR NEW YEAR
The food most fondly looked forward to during Chinese New Year in the Philippines istikoy, a treat made from sticky rice. You can buy it from stores only at this time of the year (January and February) but don't forget that you have to cook it first before eating!
RED ENVELOPES. Red is considered the luckiest color and everyone tries to dress in it and have red things all around. Children expect to receive fresh peso bills inside bright red envelopes on which are written Chinese characters. They are called hong bao in Mandarin or ang pao in Hokkien, the language used by Chinese Filipinos.
DRAGON AND LION DANCE. There is a parade of dancing lions or a dragon in the Binondo district of Manila (the primary Chinatown) and even in a few other cities in the Philippines where there is a sizable Chinese presence.
The lion's head is large and has a body of long, colorful fabric. Dancers must be strong in holding it up and skillful in manipulating it in an animated way. Homeowners leaveang pao on top of their entrance gates or hang it by their door for the lion dancers to pick up while dancing in costume.
How can you tell if it's a dragon or a lion that's dancing? The dragon has a longer body and is controlled by eight or more people. Its body is propped up with poles. The lion has four legs (two dancers — one in charge of the head and the other of the tail end). The dancer in front who holds the lion's head can make its ear wiggle and blink its eyes. He's the one in charge of picking up the ang pao.
CHINESE GREETING. In the Hokkien language that most Chinese Filipinos speak, the Chinese New Year greeting is Kiong Hee Huat Tsai. To compare, the Cantonese version dominant in Hong Kong is Kung Hei Fat Choi and the Mandarin is Gong Xi Fa Cai. It means "Congratulations and Be Prosperous."
HOW TO PREPARE FOR CHINESE NEW YEAR:
1. Decorate house doors with red scrolls on which Chinese characters are written and hang up red paper lanterns.
2. Make sure there are healthy, preferably blooming, plants around the house. They symbolize life and renewal.
3. Settle all debts. You must not owe anyone money.
4. Thoroughly clean the house before the first day of the year.
5. Get a haircut and wear new clothes.