The narrow alleys were filled with a busy and vivacious crowd. The scorching weather can do nothing about it but to intensify the festivity going on. Without a definite program, the turn of events went naturally spontaneous. Celebrating Chinese New Year in Binondo was indeed more than just a special occasion marked on the calendar but to a deeper extent, a revelry of culture, tradition and belief.

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Chinese New Year and the Lunar Calendar

Chinese New Year is also known as Spring Festival. Maybe you had asked yourself once why there is a celebration of New Year in a different time than what the rest of the world normally has (January 1). Chinese New Year is actually based on the Chinese Lunar calendar that is influenced by the moon and sun. And yes, this calendar is used as basis for traditional activities in China. Though Chinese New Year has really no exact date, it falls between the third week of January and the third week of February.

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Chinese New Year in Binondo

Binondo, a district in Manila, is claimed to be the world’s oldest Chinatown. It is a famous food trip destination for those wanting to try authentic Chinese food. I had been in Binondo for several times already for various agendas – club photowalk, gastronomic hangouts and heritage tour. For the second time, I was able to celebrate Chinese New Year in Binondo.

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As expected, the streets were as crowded as it can be. As we mingled around, we witnessed the different events that set Binondo Chinese New Year a flamboyant and significant custom engraved in the hearts of many.

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Dragon Dance

Probably one of the celebration highlights is the Dragon Dance. The Dragon Dance is an essential symbol of Chinese culture. I remember watching some in other places like corporate establishments and shopping malls during the same season.

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The Dragon Dance had been widely re-enacted mainly because of the notion of luck and driving away of evil spirits. During Chinese New Year, we saw several groups performing Dragon Dance. They performed both in the streets and even inside the shops and restaurants.

We also saw a different version of the Dragon Dance. A rendition without extravagant costumes but definitely embodied a huge sense of creativity. It was performed by children with their own ‘dragon’ made out of cloth and carton and an aluminum food tray as drum.

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Fire Dance

Aside from Dragon Dance, we were also entertained by some other group of performers fearlessly presenting Fire Dance in the streets. Note that they usually asked spectators for some donations.

Parade of Tikoy and Fruits

Together with the crowd, tikoy and fruits on a sale parade congested Binondo streets during Chinese New Year. Notice how the fruits were adorned with red ribbon and even with ampao (red envelope).

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Chinese New Year will definitely not be complete without Tikoy or Nian Gao. It is a rice cake made of glutinous rice flour cooked with egg serving as the New Year’s cake. During this time, different Tikoy flavors were being sold. If you go to famous shops like Eng Bee Tin, you’d really fall in a crazy long line to be able to buy one.

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Lucky Charms

Lucky charms were another item included on the must-buy list of many people visiting Binondo for obvious reason – to gain more fortune! The streets were also flooded with vendors selling trinkets and other house decorations believed to be magnets of luck.

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When you buy a charm bracelet, a simple ritual will be performed on it – the bracelet will be put on a bowl after which the seller will pound on the rim of the bowl.

Traveler’s Tips

• Restaurants can get easily full during the Chinese New Year. You’d line up for hours with the large volume of customers.
• Better enjoy the activities happening on the streets than spend a lot of time falling in line in restaurants or shops. Try getting some street food for added fun!

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• If you want to go on a food trip during this season, better go a day or two before the New Year itself. You’d also be able to witness the Dragon Dance and you’d also feel the Chinese New Year atmosphere less the crowd. Fruit and lucky charm vendors were also already flooding the streets during this time.
• Wear comfortable clothing.

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12 Comments

  1. Reply

    ROBERT LEE

    February 28, 2016

    I used to live near Chinatown. It has been two plus decades since leaving and nowadays, the place seem foreign to me. Primarily this is due to the influx of new immigrants from China, who are so different from the tsinoys.

  2. Reply

    Johna

    February 28, 2016

    Wowwww! Looks like so much! I didn’t get to visit Binodo this year during Chinese New Year, I missed out 🙁 and now I’m craving for some Tikoy haha.

  3. Reply

    Melissa

    February 28, 2016

    Aww, I’m so jealous. I’ve always wanted to go to Binondo for Chinese New Year. Although judging from your pictures, it seems the place wasn’t that crowded or were there a lot of people? 🙂 Also, does the celebration last the whole day or was it only for a specific time?

    Thank you in advance! I hope to visit Binondo next year.

  4. Reply

    Roselle Carlos-Toledo

    February 28, 2016

    I wanna do a Binondo food trip. I’ve been here only once and wasn’t able to explore the place.

  5. Reply

    Capers Rouge

    February 29, 2016

    The videos were so delightful. Never seen a Chinese new year, Thanks for sharing the Clip

  6. Reply

    Jessica

    February 29, 2016

    A rich and wonderful celebration. Maybe it’s around 4 years ago when i celebated it in the china town. Great photos and love your guides. 🙂

  7. Reply

    Clarinda Santiago

    February 29, 2016

    never been to Binondo for a Chinese New year celebration but this made me want to try. Binondo has a very rich culture…

  8. Reply

    retlyn

    February 29, 2016

    Ughh Chinatown!! <3 One of my goals for next year is to celebrate Chinese New Year at Binondo with my Taoism friend. Thanks for sharing! It makes me more excited haha

  9. Reply

    Lady Anne Louise Barrun

    February 29, 2016

    I’ve never experience a Chinese New Year. I guess someday I will witness this event with my friends.

  10. Reply

    Sonnie

    February 29, 2016

    We spent CNY at BGC since we live near Binondo, and we frequent the place when we are craving for Chinese food. Try eating at Estero or Kim Hiong on your next visit.

  11. Reply

    Nurse Alpha

    February 29, 2016

    Wow I can feel the fun in every photograph you took. I could say that the Philippines has a lot of unique way of celebrating New Year, not just once a year but twice! I hope I could visit Binondo next year to experience the same festivities 🙂

  12. Reply

    TweenselMom

    March 1, 2016

    What an exhaustive blog post about Binondo’s famous festivity. I’ve never been anywhere else during New Year except home. But in Chinese New Year, we are usually at the mall, looking at various Chinese displays for the New Year.

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