Kung Hei Fat Choi! Happy New Year to all of You!
This is the first time I really felt the Chinese New Year Celebrations. My wife's family celebrates it and this is the only time that I appreciate it. We treated it like the Jan. 1 New Year and celebrating it in Binondo makes it more special. It was my first time in Binondo during this celebration and I avoided it in the past because I don't know what to do in Binondo or what to expect. There is that occasional fear of pick pockets and feeling of being an outsider trying-hard-to-celebrate-the-New-Year that prevented me from experiencing the Binondo Chinese New Year!
We had fun chasing the dragons/lions all around China Town. The photo opportunity is quite different because there is no organized schedules and the happenings are organized by the shop owners. What happens is, each store prepares something for the lions --- it could be candies or lucky coins to eat and sometimes beer to drink. They court the lions to dance and bring good luck to the store. The end of the dance is usually culminated by fireworks. Before the lion leaves, they get the angpao containing cash usually hooked high above the store's entrance. It is quite an experience to see these dragons and lions do this ritual all over China Town.
Tips in celebrating Chinese New Year in Binondo. (I'm putting this as a mental note for next year)
1. Bring Ear Plugs! The fireworks are so loud that it can damage your ear drums specially if you are near taking the photos.
2. Follow the dragons/lions. There is no set schedule on when the dragons/lions appear so the best way to find out is to follow the group of dragons/lions.
3. 10am and 4pm festivities on the eve of Chinese New Year. Usually most of the lions appear during this time. I'm glad that this year's CNY falls on a saturday.
4. Go on a Food Trip. You should bring someone with you who would know where to eat in Binondo. After joining Ivan's Big Binondo Food Wok, somehow I can say that I know my way around Binondo's culinary secrets.
5. Celebrate it with friends and family. Binondo will remain a mystery to most of us and it is quite an experience to explore it with family and friends. I'll try to organize something next year.
It was nice bumping into Sidney of Sari Sari Store, Ivan Henares of IvanAboutTown, and SenorEnrique of WishYouWereHere. Check out their post on the Chinese New Year @ Binondo:
Here are some postcards from the Binondo Chinese New Year...