Textures of Traditions

The thing that is so enthralling about Chinese culture is its tremendous regard for tradition. Easily charged by the misguided mind (pardon but this author included) as superstitions, the many components of Chinese custom evident in the coming Chinese New Year celebration are after all but honest musings about life.

Mysterious and colorful, the Chinese New Year is an opportunity for the curious to experience the many textures of this festivity.

Sun.Star Plus & Special observes the coming of the Year of the Rabbit with the Buddha Light International Association, to know the fascinating meanings behind these age-old practices.

Starting clean

As logical as it is ceremonial, the anticipation of the New Year begins with the traditional “cleansing of the temple.”

Like many beginnings, it is right to start with a clean slate and the physical manifestation such as the cleaning of the temple is a reminder to shed-off the bad things (and habits we’ve cultivated) of the past year.

Hanging wishes

Just right at foot of the altar are two electrically lighted trees with yellow jewels suggesting either flower or foliage on which branches envelopes containing written wishes will be placed, said Ben Chua, vice president of the association.

He said that the trees represent the Bhodi tree, which according to Buddhist tradition, is the tree in whose shade Siddhartha Gautama meditated and received his enlightenment.

Summoning good rain

As the New Year comes, it is tradition for the temple’s master, this time Master Ru Seng, to beat the drum located at the left side of the temple’s entrance.

She climbs up tall chair made for this occasion, positioning herself to reach the drum. Then she’ll ceremoniously strike it to create a sound of progressing rhythm. The sound, like that of soft thunder, intones the heavens to “let the rain come but just enough for the crops to grow,” said Chua.

Aside from the drum, the temple master will also toll the bell located at the right side of temple for a hundred and eight times. Chua said that the 108 strikes signify to get rid of “108 worries” of man according to Buddhist tradition.

Auspicious Ang-pao

It is tradition that on Chinese New Year younger people line up to the elderly to receive an ang-pao, a red envelope that contains a monetary gift. It suggests the bid for good fortune for the coming year.

“The amount inside the envelope doesn’t really matter,” said Chua, who himself keeps an ang-pao inside his wallet.

“We uphold traditions because it reminds us of our roots. It’s been there for a long time, so there might be some good reason why we should keep them and why it is beneficial for us to continue observing them,” said Chua.

Chinese traditionWhat’s on the table

One charming characteristic of Chinese tradition is how meaning can be drawn from almost everything, from food for example. The Chinese derive meanings from how food sounds like, take the ones below for example, which as you guessed are perfect for the New Year’s feast! Mrs. Tan Ngai Guimchu, a Buddha devotee, tells us what’s in the menu.

Pineapple. Ong lai in Chinese, the cacophony of pineapple suggests for prosperity to come.

“Ong” sounds like “prosperous” and lai sounds “come.”

Raddish. So that you’ll always have food for the rest of the year. Raddish is tsai (vegetable) khao (head) is Chinese.

Huat khe. Is a delicacy made of camote flour. Huat khe means “to increase.”

Mis hua. The noodles suggest longer life.

Lumpia. As it’s preparation involves the family, fresh lumpia means the coming of family together.

Tikoy. Sweet in the palette, tikoy reminds us to “speak sweet words.” From the wisdom if Venerable Master Hsin Yun, we ought to “speak good words, think of good things and do good deeds.”

Experience a vegetarian Chinese New Year treat for only P100 excluding drinks at the So Gung Shan Chun Buddhist Temple located at V. Rama, Cebu City on Feb. 3 from 6 p.m. until 12 midnight. Songs and dances will also be rendered by different school groups. (Jose Jello Cubelo)

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Photos by Amper Campaña

How To Make Tikoy

Tikoy lovers know it is easy to prepare and is a favorite during the Chinese New Year celebration. This type of rice cake or pudding can be served as long as it is heated or fried after it is dipped in egg. But making tikoy is not that hard.

However, Rosa Sy, one of the owners of La Fortuna Bakery, says aside from serving fresh tikoy every day, they have a secret ingredient that make this dessert one of their bestsellers in the last 55 years.

But those who want to try experimenting in the kitchen. Here re simple steps in making tikoy.

Ingredients:

3 ¼ cups (400g) glutinous rice
flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
7 oz warm water
1 tbsp. milk
water, as needed
1 tbsp roasted sesame seeds
1 tbsp vegetable oil or nonstick
cooking spray
½ cup dates, pitted and chopped

Cooking procedure:

1. In a bowl, mix the warm water and brown sugar. Let it cool.

2. Add glutinous rice flour to the water and brown sugar mixture. Mix thoroughly.

3. Put the pitted and chopped dates to the mixture and make sure the pieces are distributed well.

4. Add the milk and begin shaping the mixture.

5. With vegetable oil or non-stick cooking spray, grease a cake pan before placing the glutinous rice flour mixture.

6. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top.

7. Steam the rice cake over medium-high to high heat for 45 minutes or until the edges of the cake pull away from the pan.

8. Using a knife, remove the rice cake from the pan and place it on a wax paper or cling wrap.

9. Refrigerate it for at least 5 hours before cooking it in your desired method. (CJ Rodriguez)

Indulge in a Chinese Feast

The weather’s been really crazy lately. I’m just not sure how it contributed to my recently weird appetite like craving for Peking Duck Pizza!

This not-so-usual pizza I discovered when together with a friend we feasted on a stretch of buffet specialties at the new Radisson Blu Hotel Cebu. Then our attention got transferred particularly towards the Chinese section where people flocked to get a piece of everything. And oh, what’s with the red outfit?

It was when Chinese New Year comes to mind. Yes. It’s about time to practice our “Kung Hei Fat Choi” or “Kiong Hee Huat Tsai” again!

The longest and most important festivity in the Chinese Lunar Calendar, the Chinese New Year is celebrated for about 15 days. Within China and some countries in the world with significant Chinese populations like ours, customs and traditions concerning the celebration of the Chinese New Year vary widely from buying presents to decorations, lucky charms and clothing mostly in red hues. These practices are believed to usher wealth, longevity, happiness and good luck in general. While the popular lion dance and fireworks are symbolic rituals that signal the New Year as well as to ward off evil spirits.

And how about the food, you ask.

Preparing food might be an understatement, because it’s a feast that is usually served during Chinese New Year. According to traditions, the sumptuous banquet includes fish which is usually not eaten completely so there’s left for tomorrow (basically translates to “may there be fish every year.”) Chicken, ducks, and dumplings are also regulars. Sweets and dried fruits are packed in red or black Chinese boxes. Noodles for long life of course, and fruits that are particularly golden and round like
oranges implies fortune.

If you’re in for dessert, the sticky Chinese New Year pudding (locally known as tikoy) is essential should you wish for a more prosperous year.

In Radisson Blu, Chinese New Year is among the big celebrations this year. Executive chef Ofir is sprucing up the buffet selection starting Feb. 2 for a weeklong Chinese New Year Lunch and Dinner Buffet special.

For P1,288+ one’ll get fireworks, lion dance and ang paos and of course Peking Duck Pizza. (Lylle Zarrene M. Roa)

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Photos by Amper Campaña

Merrier Chinese New Year celebration in Davao

THE Chinese community in Davao City will welcome the Year of the Golden Rabbit with a twist, as they expect thousands of guests and spectators to fill the gymnasium of Davao Central High School (DCHS) on J.P Laurel Avenue Wednesday night.

Jasper Huang, coordinator of this year’s Chinese New Year celebration, said that compared to previous years, the public can expect a more festive and merrier celebration of the Chinese community in welcoming another year as they will be holding a foam party on the street.

Apart from that, the organizers also prepared activities inside the gym wherein the public is welcome to participate.

Local officials were also expected to grace the event, like Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte and the city councilors. (more)