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So bad to give Tikoy after the Chinese New Year. A Chinoy tells us why

by Athena Yap

IT’S amazing living in the best of both worlds.

My father is pure Chinese and my mother is pure Filipino. And I have always been asked if it’s confusing which cultures and values to follow. 

And I must say that it was not hard to choose because there’s only very minimal differences between the two cultures that I have grown up with. Both cultures have proper upbringing and strict traditions to follow.

Well, there are some similarities in the way Filipinos and Chinese celebrate the holiday. There are differences and misconceptions, too.

Before the fireworks

Take for instance, the giving and receiving of Tikoy,  a Chinese rice cake. The giving and receiving happens a few days before the exact Chinese New Year. It is believed that giving Tikoy will bring fortune to both the giver and receiver. 

Can Tikoys be given after the holiday? No. Elders believe that it is not nice to give it after the event as a sign of respect to the one who will receive it. There are also some beliefs that if you give the Tikoy after the New Year, it could mean that you have an unspoken anger for that person.

Just like when most countries celebrate any holiday, Chinese culture, too, shares the same belief that a family that feasts together, stays together.

But what are the other features of Chinoy culture that people frequently ask me about when we are about to welcome another Zodiac year? Here are some:

Must clean house

The week before Chinese New Year’s eve should be reserved for a general house cleaning and preparing of foods for the most-awaited holiday. It begins on January 14. 

Because when the clock strikes 12 at New Year’s eve, it is not no longer advisable. To sweep the floor is to sweep fortunes away, the elder Chinese believe so.

Some elders also advise us to cut our hair, even just a trim,  but only before Chinese New Year’s eve. This is because cutting your hair means cutting all the negativities and leaving it behind in the year that’s about to end.

It’s not allowed to cut at night because sweeping is not allowed.

On New Year’s eve

Family gatherings are always held on New Year’s eve, this year it is on January 21. But during the day, families usually visit their ancestors in the cemetery  to offer incense and their favorite foods to let the late loved ones “eat first” before them.  There are families who do itr at home before an altar-like table filled with photos of the departed.

When to give red envelope

Dinnertime is when  the giving or exchanging of red envelopes (hongbao, angpow) happens. Families also make as much noise as they can by blowing a horn, beating on drums, setting off firecrackers and the like.  In Mandarin, it is hongbao; In Fookien, it is angpow.

During the countdown, some Chinoys also offer incense outside their house facing the full moon, then outside facing the house, to welcome good spirits.

Something round on the table

There should be a bowl or basket that contains 12 fruits on the dinner table. This belief came from Philippine tradition. Because in China, it is not necessary to have 12, as long as you have round fruits and golden things to display.

On New Year’s Day

The family gatherings continue by visiting other relatives and sharing or exchanging gifts.

Some families also believe that it brings bad luck to serve chicken because they believe that it could mirror the saying “isang kahig, isang tuka,” which means the family will earn just enough money to buy food and nothing else. Or just hand-to-mouth existence.


After the Chinese New Year celebration and before the end of the season, or on February 5,  this is the beginning of sharing mooncakes, which is also believed to bestow fortune to you and the receiver.

The lantern festival on February 5 marks the end of the CNY season. 

It is usually spent floating lanterns while making a wish and it is also believed that it’s the best time to have a dragon dance in the office or in the premises of your business. 

This is believed to scare away the evil spirits and to spread positivity and fortune that could bring prosperity to your company.



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