Posts Tagged ‘Chinese New Year’



the barongsai at Global Prestasi School

It never grows old no matter what happens or what people say. Every time I hear that the troupe will be coming to Global Prestasi School (GPS) to usher in the Chinese New Year, I am always filled with excitement. The barongsai, as the dragon or lion dance is called in Indonesia, never fails to ignite this child-like enthusiasm in me, banishing morose thoughts temporarily. The moment I hear that they’ve arrived, I’d drop what I’m doing and run to the main grounds of GPS to get a good spot to watch those colourful, swirling dragon-lions.


one of the dragon-lion prepping for the dance



This year is my year. According to Chinese astrology, I was born under the year of the rooster and if it’s your animal that is the ruling animal of the year, you are in for one auspicious year. To know that lady luck is your constant companion for a year – she won’t be making her presence greatly known until after 12 years – does one’s spirits more than some good. You feel this overwhelming sense of confidence commingling with positivity which leads to a general sense of well-being. Simply put, a force field of positive energy has been placed around you thus any sad or tragic news thrown your way by fate is met with more gumption than fear.



It was not like I was cowering in fear all throughout the 12 years lady luck was just hovering at the periphery as another animal took centre stage.  Looking back, several years were indeed fraught with tension and grief, but those years galvanised me taking me out of the rut I was in. I was admittedly chary – am still am – but those years prepared me slowly to take on the world again. One can say it prepared me for the year of the rooster, the year I see as the year of splendiferous moments and glorious feelings.




Red is for luck

Red is for luck

Red is a favourite colour and it’s one of the reasons I like Chinese New Year celebrations although I’m not Chinese. It’s the colour of the season; facades and lobbies of hotels, buildings, malls and offices are flooded with red paper lanterns, cut-outs, firework swirls and hanging swirls to usher in new luck as the old zodiac king leaves the throne. The hóng bāo (envelopes for money), naturally, are colour red. Traditional Chinese New Year attire like the qipao, or cheongsam, which is a high neck long straight dress worn by women, is generally in red. There’s also that gelatinous cake – tikoy in Filipino, kweh mangkok in Bahasa Indonesia and ngian gao in Chinese – that I receive every now and then, and I got mine for this year a day ago. Let’s not forget the round fruits that symbolize and herald prosperity – tangerine, mandarin oranges etc – which are smooth on the palate and good on the psyche.

The mighty dragon, I imagine, is counting the days of its reign as its successor makes its way to the throne and rule for a year. Chinese astrologers, without a doubt, are taking centre stage and predicting how the rule of the new king will prevail as, interestingly enough, believers and ilk hang on to their every word. I’m an Earth Rooster and piqued at how the dictates of the serpent king will shape my year considering I’m not particularly fond of the sly slithering slick creature. My luck, in tip-top shape eight years ago, had been buffeted by hurricanes and storms long enough.

Perusing’s astrology forecasts with my tongue in my cheek mixed in with a positive vibe, I take a glimpse into my year’s fortunes. My Rooster Overview begins on a positive note because, despite my dislike of the sly slithering slick monarch, we are compatible. “This translates into 11 favorable, one neutral and no unfavorable months this year. It’s time to play big. Get your career moving. Make some money. Turn up the heat in your love life. Travel. Go to school. It doesn’t really matter what you do — just do it,” explained the website’s resident master Chinese astrologer.

The hong bao tree spruces up the basement of Hotel Mulia

The hong bao tree spruces up the basement of Hotel Mulia

The snake king has made its presence felt at The Chocolate Boutique, Hotel Mulia

The snake king has made its presence felt at The Chocolate Boutique, Hotel Mulia

The Chinese astrologer was getting on my good side. On the career plane, I’ve got my plate full of enjoyable challenges although there are days that I just want to scream out of frustration and annoyance. But there are a few good students who still possess the verve and discipline for learning which make it all worthwhile. As long as I don’t lost focus and my determination and diligence, I can cruise easy in the year of the Snake.

Pacific Place gets into the Chinese New Year Spirit

Pacific Place gets into the Chinese New Year Spirit

The view of the dragon and the phoenix is impressive as you go up the escalator

The view of the dragon and the phoenix is impressive as you go up the escalator

I am thrilled with the phrase “no unfavourable months” – who isn’t? I don’t have to endure major mishaps although I am bracing myself for folly of others. Perhaps re-learning the art of patience and tolerance can finally be a virtue this year for me.

On love, the astrologer’s words on Rooster love were not without merit: “Love can set you free just as much as it can hold you down. It’s up to you to decide. Find a new love or turn the one you have into heavenly bliss. Also, it does not hurt to strut your stuff a little. You have no problem drawing a little attention to yourself.” I heard you master Chinese astrologer loud and clear. Forget about the past and find a new love. *wink, wink*

Fried with egg or steamed - you can't enough of the kwek mangkok

Fried with egg or steamed – you can’t enough of the kwek mangkok

Rooster health, on the other hand, under the reign of the snake is all about taking care of myself, which means paying attention to what I eat (think healthy diet). It also means exercising regularly. I’ve taken up badminton recently and I’m raring to go back to the court after being sidelined by colds.

Gong Xi Fa Cai from Plaza Senayan

Gong Xi Fa Cai from Plaza Senayan

Who would have thought my least favourite animal would make the most compatible companion? It caught me by surprise but it is certainly good to hear that me, the rooster in me will finally get along with the new animal king.

Gong Xi Fa Cai! Selamat Hari Raya Imlek!

Photography by Rico Falcunitin


Maybe it’s because I don’t go out much to the malls as I used to so I don’t feel the spirit or I suppose it has something to do with the fact that it’s a Muslim country (unofficially that is) so Chinese New Year is not widely celebrated unlike in Singapore where tourists and residents are greeted with blasts of the Chinese New Year (CNY) song, red décor, Mandarin oranges and Fortune plants wherever they go. Even the name is different – Imlek.

Letting the memories of CNY festivities in Singapore break the floodgates, I scowled at the forced leave imposed on all the employees – two days were deducted from the annual leave. I smiled at the ampao (red packet) containing $2 I received from my least favourite boss and the two Mandarin oranges (ponkan as they call them in Manila and Indonesia) from colleagues. Images of my former landlady and her superstitious beliefs that drove me up the wall were always the blight on my memories of CNY. She hardly enjoyed it, stressed by the need to queue for new bills at the bank and the cleaning of the house. She pestered her daughter-in-law to do it but this woman was far from the mould of the filial and obedient women of her generation. Compounding her problem with the long queues at the bank for the new bills was the lack of funds to extend the ampao-giving ritual to the entire clan. She knew asking her daughter-in-law was a futile endeavour.

It was always a quiet CNY celebration in Singapore but it wasn’t tranquil. It was silence that ran amok from the loneliness, displacement and detachment weighing heavily on the heart amidst the brilliantly orchestrated fireworks’ display, fun and tasty yu sheng, sweet nian gao, scrumptious noodles, turnip cakes and Buddha’s delight.

But this year’s Imlek was different. The malls were packed to the rafters with shoppers said a friend who had to meet someone. I declined the invite, preferring to welcome the Bunny at home. No loneliness and misery tugged at the heart or rancour clawed the insides. I quietly and happily welcomed the Bunny to my home, calmly sipping my favourite Starbucks drink, caramel macchiato.

“I can live and work with Bunny,” I mumbled under my breath.