Thursday, February 7, 2008

Kung Hei Fat Choy

A number of Filipino-Chinese own some of the largest commercial and industrial establishments in the Philippines and some of the well known political and showbiz personalities are of Filipino-Chinese descent.

The sizable number of Chinese (and Filipino-Chinese), the coming Chinese New Year of 4706 is not well marked in the public’s mind except in television and print advertisements as well as mall sales—as the celebration of New Year of 2008 in the Gregorian Calendar. In fact, it is not even a public holiday.

However, this may say more of how the Filipino-Chinese have become fully integrated into Philippine society and culture than anything else.
For the ethnic Chinese, Feb. 7 is date set for the Lunar New Year this year. It is also known as the Spring Festival. Traditionally celebrated on the first day of the month of the first lunar month as noted by the Chinese lunisolar calendar, this event is celebrated for 14 days.

The coming New Year is symbolized by the Earth Rat. In the Chinese horoscope, the Rat is the first in the 12-year animal zodiac cycle (supposedly based on the legend that when Buddha invited the animal kingdom to heaven, he named a year for the first 12 animals that arrived). The zodiac cycle is also marked in conjunction with the 10-year cycle of heavenly stems. These heavenly stems include the five elements of Chinese astrology, i.e. Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water.

Some of the Chinese customs familiar to Filipinos include giving their homes a cleaning, supposedly because this means sweeping away the bad luck of the past year. However, any cleaning done on the first day of the New Year is forbidden so that good luck that came in won’t be swept away.the Chinese wear new and/ or red clothing to signify the new year as well as set-off firecrackers on New Year’s eve. Both customs are done supposedly to scare away the evil spirits of the previous year.

On New Year’s eve itself, Chinese families gather for a dinner celebration with dishes that have symbolic significance associated with fortune, happiness and good luck. Some families visit relatives and friends for new year visits.

As the Chinese New Year approaches, the saying kung hei fat choi (also sometimes spelled as gung hay fat choy) is commonly heard and used. However, despite the mistaken assumption that this means ‘Happy New Year’, the saying actually translates to ‘congratulations and be prosperous.’

The saying became more widespread in use as the Chinese spread around the world and developed sizable Chinese-speaking communities in foreign nations.

So, remember, when you’re is greeting a friend, loved one or a stranger on the Chinese New Year, you’re actually wishing good fortune and prosperity for the coming Lunar New Year.