Kung Hei Fat Choi: Why ‘tikoy’ is a must on Chinese New Year

AT midnight on February 9, 2024, and the following day, the entire Chinese-Filipino community will be ushering in Chinese New Year with traditional revelry but with a marked difference, as the affair coincides with the 430th anniversary of the Manila Chinatown, touted to be the biggest and oldest in the world.

After a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic, this would be the first time the Chinese New Year will be celebrated full blast.

We expect the city government, the Chinatown business owners, and the residents to welcome the ‘Year of the Wood Dragon’ with a bang.

The festivities are expected to center mostly at the perennially busy Chinatown area in Ongpin, which is already abuzz with preparations and various activities meant to entice food enthusiasts and those shopping for lucky charms, adornment, and food that must be on the table on the eve of Chinese New Year.

Gerie Chua, who founded the popular Eng Bee Tin chain of stores that started in the heart of Chinatown, has come up with products commonly considered requisites to be atop the table if you want to invite fortune into your home.

The dining tables, Chua said, are usually filled with foods that symbolize affluence before the clock strikes 12.  

Considered a must on every dining table is “tikoy” as its roundness, stickiness and sweetness are believed to bring good luck, unity and harmony among the household members the whole year.

To cover everything that is usually wished for, Chua had initially come up with the idea of producing yellow, violet and green `tikoy’, colors that signify prosperity and luck.

He has also introduced ‘tikoy’ made of green tea and one with pork in it, for those who cannot afford pork and fish. 

Pork and steamed whole fish or carp – with its tail unbroken or uncut- are also a must at the table for good luck along with eight kinds of round, yellow and sweet fruits.

Another must-have on the table is the `huat kee’ or `fortune cake’ which are both believed to invite abundance into one’s home, along with the pineapple, since it signifies `ong lai’ which when translated literally, would mean “luck, come in”, thus, the pineapple cake.

Now, with his son Royce Gerik running the business, the Eng Bee Tin chain has diversified into offering more products that are in sync with the Chinese New Year tradition while keeping with the modern times. Most notably, many kinds of ‘tikoy’ are being offered to suit one’s preference as their lucky color.

Too, this year, once again, their Binondo store features a gargantuan ‘tikoy’ where customers and non-customers alike may take their selfies or posterity shots.

Right above the store is the ‘Great Buddha’ restaurant where a giant golden, smiling Buddha weighing a ton sits in the middle, where visitors may also take their pictures. Touching the Buddha’s tummy is believed to bring good luck.

It may be worth mentioning at this point that the Chua family also runs the `Café Mezzanine’ and Chuan Kee, whose proceeds go straight to a fund that is being used to help volunteer firefighters who get injured or perish and who belong to the TXTFire Philippines, a group which they also founded to help fire victims without expecting anything in return.

Indeed, as Gerie repeatedly says, amid all the traditional beliefs and practices being observed to invite good luck, nothing beats doing good deeds as the best way to enjoy good fortune as karma would provide.

This is on top of the Chinese New Year practices that include visiting the temples, wearing red, and handing out ‘tikoys’ and red envelopes which are believed to bring good fortune.     

“Kung Hei Fat Choi!” to all Chinoys and believers of the tradition, as I believe that extending the greetings brings good luck, too.


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