If you’re wondering why travel, weddings and important contract negotiations might wane these next few weeks among your Chinese friends, wonder no more. Today, August 3, is the start of the Hungry Ghost Month or simply, the Ghost Month.
Today, in celebration of the 2012 Spring Festival, we attended our parish’s Chinese Inculturated Family Mass which has been the parish’s practice for some years now.
What is a Chinese Inculturated Family Mass?
It’s a Catholic Mass – complete in form and substance. But some sections, especially the choice of songs, are sang in Mandarin. Here’s a video of the entrance song as the celebrants file in.
The Chinese culture is cognizant of the special role ancestors play. Even after they have passed on, it is believed that they continue to watch over and guide their descendants. In many Chinese houses, it is normal to find a family altar just for the ancestors with pictures of one’s dearly beloved. And on All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day or other special occasions, flowers and food are placed on the altar and incense sticks are lit up as each family member bows 3 times slowly and respectfully before the altar.
Because the parishioners are largely Chinese, the parish took elements of this practice and incorporated it into the rites after the Mass.
What makes this Mass special is the Catholic rite of ancestor veneration done after the main Mass. At the back side of the church, an altar was set up. A large painting depicting Chinese saints martyred hangs over the altar. An urn is placed at the front to hold the incense sticks. I took pictures of the two signs that explain the reason for the altar and the Catholic prayers that can be said for one’s ancestors.
Mind you, the term is “ancestor veneration” as opposed to “worship”. It does not replace or seek to put this practice on the same level as worship of God. Far from it. It simply recognizes the filial piety of the Chinese people towards their elders.
Staunch Catholics may feel uncomfortable about what looks like an Eastern practice mixed with the Catholic faith. But if we go back to our Catholic belief that teaches that we are joined in spirit with those who have gone on before us, it makes sense to include and remember them inside the church.
Today was a time to come together as a community. The children loved the performance of the Dragon and Lion Dance Troupe which included my son. Everyone roared with laughter as one of the lions stood on its hind legs, trying again and again to get the 2 red envelopes with money (angpao) that hung from the ceiling. And when it successfully got each envelope with its mouth, the crowd roared and clapped.
This is one reason why I love my parish so much. It’s this kind of spiritual and cultural vibrance and inculturation that keeps one in the faith without losing sight of your roots.
Today is Chinese New Year’s Eve and it is a time of waiting and celebration as we welcome in the Year of the Water Dragon.
Of all the animal signs in the Chinese zodiac, only the Dragon is mythical and has never been seen by human eye. This is probably one reason why the Chinese go to great lengths to have a dragon baby.
In our family, our eldest girl is an Earth Dragon. And many predict that as 2012 is a Dragon year, the world population will spike as families purposely try to have a dragon baby. Bad news for population watchers!
The Mayan calendar may predict 2012 as the end of what we know as our world but in the Chinese calendar, the Yang Water Dragon is bringing possibilities for good fortune.
Today, the Chinese community in the Philippines will celebrate New Year’s Eve by coming together over lunch and/or dinner. Houses would have been cleaned and swept free of debris. Dragon figurines and fortune plants adorn the house. Those steeped in tradition will strictly follow feng shui advice. As it’s a Sunday today, I am also sure we will see a lot of people in our parish come dressed in red. And maybe tonight, we will hear a round of fireworks.
To everyone, here is my family’s greetings for the Chinese New Year. May it be a year of blessings, prosperity, peace and hope for you and your loved ones.
KIONG HEE HUAT TSAI!
To celebrate the New Year, Chinese families usually buy glutinous rice cake (locally called tikoy) to give out to friends, family and colleagues.
Tikoy in the Philippines has truly evolved. When I was small, all we had was the usual white tikoy.
What used to be just plain white tikoy evolved into a brown version some years ago as more people preferred to eat brown sugar over white.
Then a few years ago, we began to see flavors that can only be found in the Philippines as these use locally found ingredients. Yup, you can’t find these in places like Hong Kong!
Just a few pictures to show you the small decor at home to celebrate the Year of the Ox.
KIONG HEE HUAT CHAI! GONG XI FA CAI! KUNG HEI FAT CHOY!
January 26 ushers in the Chinese New Year — the year of the Earth Ox!
Here in the Philippines, we celebrate it just as, or more noisily, than the Western New Year. Binondo, most especially, will be the center of fireworks and firecrackers, lion dances, family dinners and the ever-present tikoy.
Tikoy is made of glutinous rice flour, wheat starch, water and sugar. The ones from China are traditionally made with white sugar but here in the Philippines, we have innovated and come up with the brown sugar, ube, buko pandan and even the red bean variety.
Tikoy is usually given because its stickiness represents the strong bond of friendship that the giver wishes to have with its recipient/s. Its round shape represents eternity, no end. Tikoy has evolved, however, with some of them already coming in the shape of carp. It can be eaten as is, steamed or fried. We normally fry tikoy. We put it in the ref overnight to harden the tikoy. Next day, we slice them thinly. Then we beat 1-2 eggs. Each tikoy is then rolled in egg before it is fried. Yummmmyyyy!
Today, I went to DEC (we call it Diao Eng Chay) along Wilson St., Greenhills. The owners of DEC were very gracious and accommodating and allowed me to take any pictures I wished inside. I also went to Little Store which was not too far from DEC and also took pictures there.
Here are some of the stuff people were buying earlier for the Chinese New Year of the Ox:
The main doors of Chinese homes would have what is called a couplet (paired set of Chinese characters wishing the family good luck for the year), something like the one below:
I printed this couplet out this evening on red board paper and hope the kids will help me add gold trimmings to it before I hang these up on the left and right sides of our main door.
Tomorrow, I will plan the menu for Sunday evening.
Wishing you all the best in the Year of the Ox!
KIONG HEE HUAT CHAI!