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Fashionable Ladies Get Festive For The Year Of The Ox

As we celebrate today’s Lantern Festival, celebrated on the 15th day of the first lunar month, we look back on this year’s most fab Chinese New Year celebrations

Even non-Chinese speakers energetically greet each other when the Lunar New Year comes along: Kung Hei Fat Choy! or lately, Gong Xi Fa Cai! We might think that we are saying Happy New Year, but a better translation is actually, ‘Congratulations!’ Some people believe that this phrase came about because of an old legend, titled "The Legend of Nian". Nian means Year but there is also an old folk tale that every time the New Year would come, Nian would terrorize villages and eat unlucky people who crossed his path. So, people would just flee to the mountains, and when they survived Nian, or the year, they would congratulate each other. But one fine day, an old man saw a lady and asked her to keep him company. She offered instead to take him to the mountains where all the other villagers had fled. He then told her that he would help her find a way to survive Nian. Against her better judgement, she stayed behind, out of compassion for the old man, whom she didn’t want to leave alone. The old man then made many red flags and prepared fireworks. When Nian came, and saw the red flags and heard the fireworks, it fled as fast as it could. It turned out that the cruel beast thought the red flags were fire and the noise of the fireworks frightened it. And so, the village people put up red decor and light fireworks every lunar new year, to keep the frightful monster away.


In many ways, 2020 was indeed a beast of a year, and we can truly congratulate each other that we made it to 2021. And more than just surviving, these chic and inspiring ladies are celebrating with energy and enthusiasm. The pandemic may have made our days like one big loop, but the arrival of a new year, brings hope and a lightness of heart. With traditional spreads but added touches of quirky delights, these ladies show us that even a global crisis cannot kill good cheer and family ties.


Salome Uy

SALOME UY: THE POWER OF GLAMOUR

Lady of style Salome Uy loves a showstopping look and the same goes for her Chinese New Year spread. Full of color and life, her table setting radiates optimism and good cheer. She also shares her words of wisdom, going beyond luck and manifesting deep faith. 


What ritual, belief or custom do you enjoy the most about Chinese New Year?

"Chinese New Year is always festive. I love the red and gold colors. It just makes me feel joyful. I went to the salon for a manicure and of course, it has to be red nail polish! And I love wearing bright colors." 


What are your most precious memories of Chinese New Year?

"Because it’s the time when the family gets together, family memories, that’s what are the most precious (ones). I miss both my parents who have both passed. The New Year (celebrations)’s were happier times, with my parents’ presence and all my siblings and their families, as well."


Tell us when you feel the luckiest.

"I actually don’t believe in luck. But I believe in Karma. For me, it’s all about showing kindness, to everyone; anywhere, anytime. I choose kindness, because, at the end of the day, I feel peace." 


What are some of the luckiest things that have happened to you?

"I choose to call them blessings, and not luck. I have been blessed with a wonderful family and good health. When you can sleep nine hours everyday, you have three meals a day, you have the comfort of home—everything else is a bonus."

How do you set a festive and hopeful spirit this year?

"I only need one major dish to make my family happy. And this year, I decided on one whole suckling pig. I just added Chinese misua and scallops with broccoli to complete our happy meal. And a colorful cake from DOUGHMESTIC completes my New Year lunch menu. I included koi fish tikoy and gold coin chocolates to spice up my table setting. I used my red plates, red glasses, and gold placemats. I also added kiat-kiat (small oranges or nectarines) to my decor. Then a money tree which is said to bring some luck. I trended ang pao (red money envelopes) on top of the plates for that Chinese New Year look. I also had the twelve round fruits to complete my Chinese New Year decoration."

Linda Ley

LINDA LEY: GIVING TIMELESS ELEGANCE A CONTEMPORARY EDGE

When Linda Ley makes an appearance, her flawless fashion choices and ladylike carriage will instantly make the occasion an elegant celebration. She can translate her love of personal style into her table setting prowess. 


What ritual, belief or custom do you enjoy the most about Chinese New Year?

"Chinese New Year is very festive! I look forward to styling the house with lucky ornaments and displaying food that signifies prosperity, luck and happiness. Tikoy, round fruits, pineapples, dumplings, and noodles are just some of the staple food we enjoy every New Year." 


What are your most precious memories of Chinese New Year?

"My most precious Chinese New Year memories happened in my childhood. My siblings and I would wake up very early to greet our parents Kung Hei Fat Choi, then we would receive Lai Si or Ang Pao from them. We would also get these envelopes from our uncles and aunties. After we had collected all the Ang Pao’s, my siblings and I would open them up and count the money that we would spend on our toys and snacks."

Tell us when you feel the luckiest.

"I feel the luckiest when I am in the company of my family. I’m lucky to have my wonderful famiLEY!" 


What are some of the luckiest things that have happened to you?

"The luckiest thing that happened to me was when I met my husband. He has brought me so much happiness and love. I’m lucky to have a peaceful and happy life. My husband and children are my lucky charms and greatest treasures." 


How do you set a festive and hopeful spirit this year?

"Festive decorations always help in setting the mood. Lots of red and gold colors and food that symbolize prosperity and good luck help make us hopeful for the year to come. Chinese New Year tablescapes are a MUST! The styling should be prepared and completed before the eve of the new year. 


When the family gathers for dinner, we wish each other good health, prosperity, luck and happiness. The Chinese customs and practices that I grew up with are now being passed on to my children. This keeps me hopeful that our traditions will carry on in the next generation to come.


My setup is a combination of modern chic and traditional elegance. Bountiful fruits and food that signify luck and prosperity are a must. These will be enhanced and highlighted with Chinese motif dinnerware. The mood should be festive; therefore, adding red Chinese lanterns will make it look like a happy celebration. It’s very challenging for me to create new ideas but I always plan ahead to come up with something fresh and different from all my previous set-ups.

Sheree Chua and family

SHEREE CHUA: MELDING MODERNITY AND TRADITION

Philanthropist, arts and culture patron and advocate, writer and self-described “flying squirrel on Red Bull,” Sheree Chua is certainly isn’t easy to pin down. But she does relish slowing down and savoring the moments of the Chinese New Year repast. 


What ritual, belief or custom do you enjoy the most about Chinese New Year?

"According to my mom, the night before Chinese New Year is “Chinese Christmas Eve”. We would prepare a lavish dinner that everyone is required to attend. At some point of the night, we would put our chopstick skills to the tossing the prosperity salad (Yusheng) which consists of fish (for luck), pomelos (for extra luck), white radish (for good luck in business matters), peanuts (for money), carrots (for even MORE luck) and an assortment of other ingredients. The prosperity salad is usually served in a large round tray and everyone is invited to join in the tossing. It’s quite a hoot!


Married daughters are not allowed to stay past 12 midnight so after that, it’s time to toss my sister out!" 


What are your most precious memories of Chinese New Year?

"My fondest Chinese New Year Memory was spending it in Davao during my childhood. My grandma would cook up a feast from morning and for days afterwards. We would come on the morning of Chinese New Year for tikoy and sticky peanut balls—she made them from scratch! And then, if we were well-behaved, she would give us her homemade hi-hu (fish floss) that she stirred in the wok for hours to achieve that flossy texture. Those days, I would make sure that I received my share of the hi-hu treasure before sneaking some chocolate coins from the centerpiece into my pockets." 


Tell us when you feel the luckiest.

"I’m mababaw (easy to please). I feel luckiest when I get extra snuggles from my dog, when there’s no line in immigration, when it’s happy hour and I get an extra drink for the price of one, when things arrive ahead of schedule, when I get a nice toy from a happy meal."


What are some of the luckiest things that happened to you?

"When my mother was pregnant with me, the plane she was on lost a lot of altitude within minutes. While she was snapping on the oxygen mask, she could see the sea getting closer from her window. Everybody was praying out loud because they thought they were going to crash. The pilot eventually wrangled them all from near death and they all landed safe and sound, with complimentary minor trauma for air travel. I guess that was lucky."

How do you set a festive and hopeful spirit this year?

"The generic advice would be: wear red, don’t sulk, don’t spend money on that day, lest you’d be spending money for the rest of the year. 


I would say: forget grudges. Laugh every chance you get. Oh, and wear red on Chinese New Year before your family disowns you!


For our set up, we decided to get creative this year and went for a Taiwanese Street food setup. Each stall had elements of success and good luck. There were the traditional foods: fish for prosperity and abundance, dumplings for wealth, chicken for family togetherness (it has to be a whole chicken!), spring rolls for gold. My sister Ruby made special siopao that looked like pandas and chickens for my nephews and nieces. This year, we found cute pears molded to look like tiny Buddha.


The centerpiece has to have thirteen fruits (placed on a large round tray—you cannot go for rectangular trays). The pineapple has to sit in the heart of it all. One must make sure that the round fruits are of the sweet variety. Chocolate wrapped in gold foil that looks like gold coins must be scattered about.


We also prepare a bowl filled with uncooked rice and on top of it we place ginger, turmeric, radish and ang pao with exactly one hundred and sixty-eight pesos inside.

Patty Ang

PATTY ANG: FASHIONABLY AL FRESCO

Young fashion designer, wife, and mother Patty Ang is a favorite of fashion editors and stylish women of the metro. She is known for her architectural but still very feminine silhouettes and an overall fresh and modern look. 


What ritual, belief or custom do you enjoy the most about Chinese New Year?

"For me, I love celebrating Chinese New Year because the whole clan is complete. We barely get together as everyone has their own family; and everyone is busy. There are few occasions in the year for which everyone blocks off their schedule so that we can be complete and Chinese New Year is one of them. Of course, aside from the authentic Chinese food, there is unlimited tikoy! and fruits!"


What are your most precious memories of Chinese New Year?

"Again, for me, it's the memories with my clan. I get to spend time with my relatives. Since we barely see each other, when we are complete, it’s the best of times."


Tell us when you feel the luckiest.

"I feel the luckiest when I see my family happy and complete. That we are all still safe and very much lucky to be able to spend some time together."

What are some of the luckiest things that have happened to you?

"I think, as of the moment, the ‘luckiest’ thing I could think of right now is that even with the pandemic, my work is still surviving; my team is still complete; and no one has been hit by the virus. And I hope that continues until this all ends."


How do you set a festive and hopeful spirit this year? 

"This year was quite simple, but as long as we’re together, we’re very happy. Especially because my Amah is very much delighted when she sees us, and we are all complete."

Shirley Wong

SHIRLEY WONG: A FRESH SPIN ON ANCIENT TRADITIONS

Former Miss Chinatown and fashionable entrepreneur Shirley Wong is the perfect proof that traditional values and present-day life can happily co-exist. 


What ritual, belief or custom do you enjoy the most about Chinese New Year?

"I always look forward to the food that will be served. Every Chinese New Year, my Amah who is now 101 years old, would prepare fresh Chinese lumpia for our family. I love her homemade recipe and it is still my favorite even up to this day."

What are your most precious memories of Chinese New Year?

"My parents would ask my siblings and me to go to our office to watch fireworks and the Lion Dance performance. Hiding the Ang Pao (money envelopes) for the performers, who would then search for them, was the most exciting part." 


What are some of the luckiest things that have happened to you?

"Marrying the love of my life; and being married to someone who loves me the most and is my best friend at the same time. And then sharing such special memories such as being invited to very exclusive fashion events in Paris. (Ed’s Note: Shirley and her husband were invited by Louis Vuitton to the Spring Summer 2019-2020 men’s collection and the launch of Francesca Amfitheatrof’s first fine jewelry collection for Louis Vuitton.)"


How do you set a festive and hopeful spirit this Chinese New Year?

"Following family tradition, we only bring down the Christmas tree after celebrating Chinese New Year. Having Christmas decors set up a little longer adds to the feeling of warmth, joy and happiness. I also love setting up our table, bringing out my collections for this joyous and prosperous occasion. I prepared noodles which symbolize long life, sweet and sour fish for wealth and prosperity, round fruits for abundance, and “KIAM PENG” for togetherness, which is the same symbolism as tikes. Lastly, my siblings and I requested our Aunt to cook and prepare our Amah’s special lumpia recipe to continue the tradition and make us feel at home. After dinner, my siblings and I called our family back home via FaceTime to greet one another."

Nikki Tang

NIKKI TANG: THE BEAUTY OF A RICH HERITAGE

“Beauty-preneur” and philanthropist Nikki Tang may be known for her savvy business smarts as a thoroughly modern and accomplished 21st century woman but she is proud to pass on cultural traditions and customs to her sons. 


What ritual, belief or custom do you enjoy the most about Chinese New Year?

"Being Chinese, I love honoring the tradition and culture and having both of my sons experience them. Family gatherings mean great food that is enjoyed together, welcoming another year together and the gift giving of the red envelope, the famous Ang pao. Tikoy is my super favorite. And we have to wear the proper color: RED! We have to display eight round fruits in red and yellow, which brings luck, prosperity and good fortune. And before (the pandemic) many dragon dances and fireworks, as well. 


 What are your most precious memories of Chinese New Year?

"Being with my family and eating good lucky food. Going to the temple. Receiving Ang Pao. And watching the dragon dance."

Tell us when you feel the luckiest.

"When I encounter wonderful and good opportunities. The harder I work, the luckier I get, and all that makes me feel lucky. And when things are happening the way I envisioned them to be, because it’s all for a good purpose and part of creating a meaningful life."


What are some of the luckiest things that have happened to you?

"The beautiful births of my two sons. I have met certain individuals at critical times on my journey in life who have always helped to direct me on the right path. Thus, they prepare me for the next phases of my life and make me ready for whatever new endeavors I intend to do. Being able to travel to many beautiful places and having work that enables me to travel extensively. Becoming a Rotary president (The Champion President for Rotary year 2019-2020). Being able to offer help to those less fortunate with a number of philanthropic projects."


How do you set a festive and hopeful spirit this year?

"Lots of happy colors like red, gold, orange, yellow. Red lanterns, fireworks, sharing of wealth and good vibes with loved ones and friends and families; food symbolizing closeness and longevity, festive treats.


We used to go to the temple to offer to the gods and pray and offer for blessings, protection and abundance. We open the windows and doors at midnight to allow old energies to depart while inviting new, fresh positive energies to flow inwards. We prepare round fruits in red and yellow, ripe pineapple with crown, tikoy, chocolates, sweets, cakes, candies and as centerpieces, a fresh bouquet, and some coins."


Photos courtesy of Shirley Wong, Patty Ang, Salome Uy, Sheree Chua, Nikki Tang, and Linda Ley