BINONDO NEW YEAR’S EVE. It is a tradition among the Chinese community in the country as well with some Filipinos to have items believed to herald good fortune and prosperity all set for the celebration of the Chinese New Year. In Binondo, vendors make sure that all sorts of decorations, charms, figurines, trinkets, fruits, crops, and delicacies were made available for those who practice Chinese New Year rituals and traditions.
To experience the way the Chinese-Filipinos prepare for the most important festival of the year, we visited Binondo on Chinese New Year‘s eve.
WEALTH MAGNET. Although we’ve been to Binondo several times before, we have not seen it as crowded and as vibrant as it was during the eve of Chinese New Year. The stores lining the entire stretch of Ongpin spilled out their assorted merchandise on the street. Most vendors in makeshift stalls sell wealth symbols, usually gold charms tied in red silk cords with red tassels.
Symbols like a round fruit, gold ingot, pineapple, fish, and gold coins are believed to attract wealth. They are hung up on doors and windows at homes and offices, and even in cars to summon money as if magnets for wealth.
LUCKY CHARMS. There were trinkets to be worn as amulets in form bracelets, rings, and pendants. These are believed to protect the wearer from bad omen.
It was also along Ongpin Street we found different figurines the Buddha and the sacred animals of the Chinese zodiac as well as mythical creature like the phoenix and dragon. They are some of the interesting merchandise laid out on long tables in stalls attended by Chinese vendors.
MYSTIC KNOT. We learned some feng shui tips from the vendors themselves. When we asked which of the charms is the most effective in bringing endless fortune, one vendor recommended the mystic knot. The mystic knot is a series of six figure eight knots. It is a symbol of infinite and endless abundance with no beginning or end. It is made of a red silk cord tied through coins, charms, and other symbols of wealth.
In feng shui, it is a common practice to combine wealth symbols with other charms to manifest its potency depending on certain considerations like physical location and ones zodiac sign.
WHAT’S IN A FRUIT BASKET. One important Chinese tradition is to have a fruit basket during the celebration of Chinese New Year as it is a harbinger of all good things from heaven. Fruits like the kiat-kiat, small oranges were known to symbolize solid wealth as well as pears which represents smooth life.
ONG LAI. A pineapple should be at the center of this basket as it stands for good luck. In Chinese, it is called Ong Lai, which literally means prosperity comes. It is believed that the more number of heads the pineapple has the more prosperous the New Year will be for the owner.
The pineapple must be a highly regarded symbol for wealth that wreaths with the fruit surrounded by kiat-kiat were sold everywhere along Ongpin and even narrow alleys like Carvajal Street. For us, the pineapple wreath is a another kind of folk art similar to the Lenten Palaspas and Christmas Parol.
TARO FOR BUSINESS. Not only tropical fruits of different texture, sizes, and shapes are used as wealth symbols, even the odd shaped taro root crop with branches sprouting from one source signifies the flourishing of the family and the growing of business.
TIKOY. Another Chinese New Year treat is the glutinous tikoy which is sold in different sizes, flavors, and prices. The Chinese believe that eating tikoy symbolizes family togetherness.
EPILOGUE. Naturally, a trip to Binondo meant going home with a bag of good luck fruits, boxes of sticky tikoy, packs of fried siopao and hopia, and assorted prosperity charms -treasures from one of the world’s oldest Chinatowns to be shared with those we want to entice to go with us the next day for Binondo’s Chinese New Year Celebration.