Qing Ming, Ghost Month and other important dates that Chinoys also commemorate

By Stanley Ong See 05 June, 2017
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A few years ago, my editor from another media outfit asked me a naive but weird question of how do Chinese-Filipinos celebrate Christmas? It was an innocent query to be sure, but for someone who grew up with Noche Buena, participated in “Kris Kringle”/exchange gift/secret Santa, and experienced annual Christmas rushes, I politely answered that there’s really no difference with how my family celebrates the most wonderful time of the year.

Like most people based in the Philippines, we observe regular and special non-working rest days by not going to school or having a day off from the office. However, in addition to the 10-plus national public holidays declared by Malacañang annually, Chinoys also celebrate special dates based on the ones being observed in Mainland China.

Unlike most Philippine breaks where important personalities (Rizal and Bonifacio Days) or religion (Holy Week, Christmas, and Eid al-Fitr) are the reasons behind the days of observance, Chinese holidays commemorate either nature (Spring, and mid-Autumn festivals) or a group of people (Women’s, Youth, Children’s, and Teacher’s Days).

Also, unlike in the Philippines where a holiday lasts or is celebrated for a day or two, Chinese important dates like the Lunar New Year and QingMing (清明節)/Tomb-sweeping (掃墳節) festival last for more or less an entire week. Though the Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival as it is known in Mainland China and other countries with large Chinese populations, is the most important, it is not the holiday, festival, or occasion that Chinoys celebrate on a yearly basis.

Chinese (Lunar) New Year

Easily the most important and famous holiday for Chinoys and Chinese people all over the world as it is a time for families to reunite, come together around the dining table for a Spring Festival feast, and make wishes for a prosperous and blessed new year. The specific date is based on the lunar calendar; enabling Chinese New Year to be celebrated as early as late January to a late as the second week of February.

Filipino friends or officemates would instantly ask for boxes for Tikoy (粘糕), the glutinous rice-based round cake that symbolizes “raising oneself taller/higher in the coming year”. Common foods found on Chinoy tables also include fish for prosperity and good fortune, noodles for long life, and rice for unity.

Qing Ming (清明節)/Tomb-sweeping (掃墳節) festival

QingMing (pure and bright), Tomb-sweeping or “saw bo” in Hokkien is similar to the Roman Catholic’s All Souls’ day where family members go to cemeteries, temples, or other final resting places of their ancestors to clean and sweep their graves, give offerings, burn incense, and other practices. Personally, I haven’t been to our ancestral place in Xiamen or participated in the actual tomb-sweeping ritual, only through the stories and words from my dad.

Mid-Autumn Festival

As kids, we didn’t know the term Mid-Autumn Festival but know of two items associated with this holiday: playing Pua Tiong Chiu (the Chinese dice game) and eating mooncakes. The former is a six-die game where the objective to get all six dice to roll the face with four dots (狀元, Zhuàng Yuán/chuang yen) and win the top prize. 

The latter is memorable because of the legend of Chinese residents using the mooncake as a means of communication during the Imperial times. The Mid-Autumn or Mooncake festival is celebrated every 15th day of the 8th month of the Lunar Calendar (October 4, 2017).

Pua Tiong Chiu's main objective to to get the Zhuàng Yuán or top prize.
Pua Tiong Chiu's main objective to to get the Zhuàng Yuán or top prize. (Graphics by Joeby Gabriel/ChinoyTV)

Ghost Month

The Ghost Month isn’t really an observed holiday, rather a 30-day observance of the Chinese with regards to the seventh month of the Lunar calendar. A period where my parents and older Chinoys would say that the dead, through their spirits or ghosts, are said to be out from the underworld and visiting the living. Aside from a more cautious approach (avoiding vacations, not going out unless you really have to, etc.), expect to see little to no new businesses open or major investments placed, even in the stock market, during the Ghost Month (August 22 - September 19, 2017)

Death anniversaries of ancestors

Aside from QingMing and All Souls’ Day, Chinoys also commemorate the death anniversaries of their loved ones by going back to their ancestral houses (or houses where they grew up), prepare a spread consisting of bowls of rice, fish, chicken (undressed or with the head and feet still attached), pork, and noodles for offering, lighting incense, and rolling and burning “gold” paper (金紙).

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  • Miss Chinatown Diaries 丁妮可

    This year’s Chinese New Year was celebrated in a different way and in its purest form as the Little Mister and Miss Chinatown Philippines (LMMCP) Pageant was held in the SM Mall of Asia activity center where the elements of the programs refreshed us with our Chinese history, culture and language. The show kicked off with the staple spectacle of the dragon and lion dance that decorated the air of Mall of Asia with the festive sound of the Chinese drums that not only got the audience excited but drew mall customers and passersby to watch the show as well.

    As I sat on the judges’ table studying the score sheets in front of me, the boys and girls of LMMCP appeared on stage one by one to make their introductions (in fluent mandarin, mind you) in their Chinese cultural costumes. This is my absolute favorite part of the event because not only were the kids adorable in their obviously well-prepared costumes, but they also shared a little bit of history relevant to what they’re wearing like which Chinese emperor or empress they represent, belonging to which dynasty and province in China, and they even showed us the intricate details of their costumes like the Chinese collar, their shoes, and how their hair should be worn. And then they finally give one last twirl before they exit the stage.

    The next part of the program is the first question and answer portion in Chinese where they were asked either of the two questions: “If you win this pageant, what would you do with the prize money?” or “What did you learn from your experience in this pageant?” For the first question, most of the kids answered that they would be donating the money to charity, some answered that they would use it for the next school year’s tuition fee as a way of helping their mom, and a few even said that they’ll be investing their money! And of course, besides these things, a number of them also said that they would allot a bit of their prize money to buy whatever they want to eat, which is the perfect thing to do if you ask me! As for the second question, you could sense the enjoyment of the kids in this pageant as all the kids answered that they learned how to make new friends and on top of that, learned new skills through the various activities held throughout the pageant like Chinese calligraphy lessons from the Ateneo Confucius Institute, personality development workshops by John Robert Powers where they learned how to present themselves in public and in turn gained self-confidence, and of course they really enjoyed the dance training sessions for the pageant because who doesn’t love to dance?

    The next part of the program was heart wrenching as we make the first cut to determine the top 10 kids (5 girls and 5 boys) who will be continuing on to the next round. To make it to the top 10, the kids must have consistently high scores from the two previous rounds (Chinese cultural costume and Chinese Q&A).

    And finally, to determine the winners of the LMMCP, the top 10 contestants went through another question and answer portion where they were asked: “Which traits of your parents would you like to emulate or inherit?” Charlize Chua of Chiang Kai Shek College gave the winning answer: “My parents’ kindness. Because they are kind to both good and bad people and they show forgiveness towards them.” And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what makes a princess.

    But at the end of the day, the real winners are the kids and parents who have grown together and deeper in love with each other, whose kids would someday look back at their lives and say, “My mom and dad are my ultimate fans ever since I was a kid” and maybe there will be a flashback of them cheering for their kids in the LMMCP Pageant. You see, what truly makes this whole event unique is the role of the parents who fill their children with encouragement and love and teach them how to just have fun! And the most beautiful part is, at a young age and in taking an opportunity where there is a risk of experiencing defeat, their parents hold them even closer than before and teach them to become stronger and to never lose that youthful smile. Because in life, it’s not about whether the sun rises or the sun sets, its how you find a way to enjoy it either way.

    Congratulations, Enzel Khee (Hope Christian High School) and Charlize Chua (CKSC) for becoming the first ever Little Mister and Miss Chinatown 2015! I would also like to extend my congratulatory remarks to the first runners up Hagios Hwan (Makati Hope Christian School) and Hanelle Chua (CKSC), second runners up Keveen Sy Suan (CKSC) and Rebecca Dionisio (CKSC), third runners up Andrei Chan (St. Stephen High School) and Phoebe See (CKSC), and fourth runners up Eric Ding (Hope Christian High School) and Evanah Yu (St. Stephen High School). And finally, congratulations to all the contestants because you were the bravest little kiddies in the world on that stage and I will never forget the image of you kids running around and dancing together backstage where you not only became fast friends, but the best of friends. I hope you treasure this memory forever.

    *Nicole Cordoves is the reigning Miss Chinatown 2014

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