Bridging Generations: Celebrating the Year of the Dragon through time-honored traditions

Performances of lion and dragon dances are believed to usher in good fortune for the community.
Performances of lion and dragon dances are believed to usher in good fortune for the community.

CHINESE New Year, much like all other festive occasions in the Philippines, is steeped in traditions and beliefs that have gracefully endured the passage of time.

Celebrating this auspicious occasion is not just a yearly event but a deeply ingrained legacy passed down through the ages. Families across generations have embraced customs such as offering food to ancestors, wearing vibrant red attire for good luck, and partaking in festive gatherings with loved ones.

Jehan Tan mentions a preference for convenient practices such as wearing red and visiting family members.
Jehan Tan mentions a preference for convenient practices such as wearing red and visiting family members.

These traditions, meticulously preserved and handed down from elders to younger members, serve as cultural anchors, fostering a profound sense of continuity and unity. In the Philippines, Chinese New Year represents the resilience of traditions and the enduring spirit of familial and cultural bonds.

Traditions

For Jehan Tan, Chinese New Year celebrations center around spending time with his extended family, with the dress code emphasizing the color red, symbolizing joy in Chinese traditions.

Burning incense for departed loved ones is also crucial in his family’s rituals.

While younger generations in his family may not strictly adhere to traditional practices, Jehan highlights their excitement to reconnect with friends and family during the celebration.

“My family simply sticks to the convenient traditions like wearing bright red clothes and visiting family members,” he said.

Jehan shares the importance of rituals in preserving the significance of the celebration, recognizing that the effort put into these practices creates a festive atmosphere.

He also provided insights into the reverence for the Dragon in Chinese culture, with some parents purposefully planning births in the Year of the Dragon, attributing qualities of dominance, strength, and success to this zodiac sign.

Offerings

Shannen Dyguani shares her family’s Chinese New Year traditions, “When we were young, we used to halad or offer food to our ama and angkong’s parents, but now we just eat at home.”

Shannen acknowledges the challenges of gathering younger generations due to technological changes but encourages their active participation, out of respect for traditions.

She notes a generational gap but highlights her family’s adaptability by introducing new, harmless traditions like cousin gatherings and trying different food. Shannen values the fun aspect of these adaptations.

She believes common rituals strengthen family bonds. Additionally, she reflects on the significance of the Year of the Dragon in Chinese culture, symbolizing power, nobility, honor, luck and success, with 2024 bringing opportunities and embracing change amid challenges.

Food

Jiashi Lin describes his family’s approach to Chinese New Year, revealing that they typically purchase Chinese food without actively practicing many Chinese cultural traditions.

His connection to Chinese heritage is limited, with only his paternal grandmother having been raised in a fully Chinese family. However, Jiashi notes recent efforts to appreciate his roots by researching Lunar New Year food and decorations.

He touches on the broader challenge faced by many younger Chinese Filipinos who struggle with their cultural identity, often unable to speak Hokkien confidently, forgetting Mandarin, or just not having the need to learn both languages.

Despite their initial lack of celebration, Jiashi’s family has undergone a significant shift, taking the Lunar New Year seriously as a notable innovation in their traditions.

This auspicious year becomes a reminder of the enduring strength and interconnectedness within the family structure. Families across generations come together, creating a harmonious blend of traditions and customs that have been passed down through time.

The dragon, symbolizing power, nobility, honor, luck and success, serves as a beacon for familial ties, inspiring a collective spirit of resilience and shared aspirations.

The emphasis on family unity is particularly crucial during this celebratory period, as it reinforces the values of togetherness and mutual support.

Elders play a pivotal role in passing down traditions to younger members, creating a sense of continuity and preserving cultural heritage. The celebration prompts a reflection on the importance of unity, understanding and respect for one another.

Whether through traditional practices or modern adaptations, the celebration becomes a testament to the enduring strength that family provides, making the Year of the Dragon not only a time of festivity but also a powerful reminder of the shared journey and interconnected destinies within the familial sphere. S

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