Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila in 30 Photos

China has the biggest population in the world. It is then no wonder why Chinatowns are scattered in all corners of the world and why big cities worldwide are celebrating Chinese New Year.

Did you know that the oldest Chinatown in the world is in Binondo, Manila? Yes, Chinese had considered the Philippines as their place of imperial expansion even before the Spaniards came. That said, celebrating Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila is the best way of witnessing Chinese traditions in the Philippines.

Chinese New Year in Binondo Be Like

Most Filipino-Chinese speak Hokkien but I don’t know why the Chinese New Year greeting “Kung Hei Fat Choi” in Cantonese is more popular in the Philippines than the Hokkien "Kiong Hee Huat Tsai". The phrase means “wishing you prosperity’. Any way it’s said, let me give you a glimpse of how Chinese New Year is celebrated in Binondo, Manila, in photos.

Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila

Dragon and Lion Dance

Chinese New Year in Binondo wouldn’t be complete without the traditional dragon and lion dance. The undulating dance is accompanied by beating of drums, clashing of cymbals and the banging of gongs. Dragon symbolizes power and auspiciousness.

The dragon dance is often accompanied by a pair of colorful lions dancing in pantomime-like gestures. The lion dance is, likewise, a symbol of auspiciousness. Dragon and lion dancers would visit the rows of Filipino-Chinese establishments along the streets of Binondo. The ritual is believed to bring good luck to businesses and to people.

Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila

Colorful lion dance

Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila

Will I be luckiest this year if I chase as many dragons as I can?

Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila

Touching the dragon, they say, will bring good luck and prosperity

Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila

Dragon dancers: Time to pose and smile


Before the dragon and lion dance end, long strings of firecrackers are lit in some instances, in the belief of scaring away the evil spirits. Well, I swear I’m not an evil spirit but I got scared of the firecrackers. I’m okay with hearing the loud crackling and smelling the smoke from a distance.

I don’t blame Chinese tradition but the way I see firecrackers is that they’re sources of air and soil pollution.

Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila

Smoke gets in my eyes

The Year of the Dog

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2018 is the year of the Earth Dog. You won’t have to doubt because every inch into the Binondo streets would give you an indication that it is the Year of the Dog.

Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila


Tikoy is a famous rice cake sold during Chinese New Year. The original white Tikoy has evolved into different variants such as chocolate, ube (purple yam), strawberry and pandan flavors. The sticky snack serves as an offering to the Kitchen God. It is believed to keep his mouth stuck together to prevent him from badmouthing the offerer when he reports to the God of all Gods.

Lucky charms

Lucky charms abound in Binondo even when it’s not Chinese New Year. Hence, expect even more shops and street vendors selling all kinds of lucky charms in such forms as trinkets, decors and bracelets.

Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila

Small red envelopes for coins and for inserting in wallets.  The vendor says you'll never run out of money when you have one in your wallet.

Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila

Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila

Are these lucky charms, too? Haha!

interesting facts about China

Planning a travel to China? Learn more about interesting facts about China and things you need to know to avoid culture shock in China.

Lucky Money in Red Envelopes

Also called angpao, these are red envelopes where money is inserted then given to children as gifts to protect them from sickness and ward off evil spirits. This Chinese tradition has been adopted by Filipinos all year long. The red envelopes are gifted to children and adults alike for monetary presents, especially during Christmas season and special occasions.

Red Everything

Ever wondered why it’s raining red during Chinese New Year? Apparently, the evil spirits aren’t that hard to drive away. Red is also believed to scare them away.

Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila

Red Chinese lantern all over Binondo streets

Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila

Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila this just a post-Valentines sale?

Street Performers

Okay, this one, you’ll find only in the Philippines – kids mimicking the dragon and lion dance using makeshift props. It’s ironic how these kids perform the dance not to bring good luck to others but as buskers who take this occasion as an opportunity to probably bring food to their plates.

Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila

Expect to see a lot of other street performers along the streets of Binondo who would gladly show off what they’ve got. It’s up to you if you’d be willing to put in money in their baskets (or in their costumes).

Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila

Notice those bulging things in his shirt? That's where he "baskets" his talent fee.

Chinese New Year in Binondo, ManilaThis little drummer girl has just finished her performance

Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila

These inked kids in diapers...I did not understand the thought of this

Street Food

You can’t get hungry when you’re in Binondo. It’s a haven for food trippers who want a taste of both Chinese and Filipino food. It’s also easy to have snacks by choosing from a variety of street food available along this old Chinatown.

Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila

Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila

The Spectators

As the years go by, it seems that more and more people flock every year to Binondo, Manila to enjoy the festivities of the Chinese New Year. My friend even joked around that there were even more photographers (pro and non-pro) than Chinese.

Chinese New Year in Binondo becomes a congregation of Filipinos, Filipino-Chinese, Chinese and other foreigners during Chinese New Year. Why? There’s something about the Chinese culture, the joyful celebration, the chaos and the Chinese myths that make it so appealing.

Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila

Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila Chinese New Year in Binondo, Manila

Be Responsible Visitors

The aftermath of major public celebrations is often not favorable because of the enormous amount of wastes generated. Wastes end up littered on the streets with the people relying on public service to clean up the mess. And then we complain about our country not being as clean as its more developed neighbors.

If you want a clean environment, don’t wait or ask for change, be the change.
Avoid wastes in the first place, if you can. Click here to discover specific ways to make your travels greener.

travel green

Check out other annual events in Metro Manila like the International Pyromusical Competition

Looking for a place near Metro Manila to stimulate the artist in you? Visit the Pinto Art Museum

Other Activities In or Near Binondo

Try other suggested activities in Binondo and around:

Walk This Way Intramuros Tour with Carlos Celdran - Walk through the streets of Manila and travel back in time with the acclaimed Filipino guide, Carlos Celdran

The Big Binondo Food Wok - Learn all about the history of Binondo from a specialist foodie guide as you feast on specialty treats

Intramuros Bambike Tour - Cycle through the streets of Intramuros, one of the oldest parts of Manila

Old Manila Full Day Tour - Stroll along the Manila's streets from past to present and discover the Philippines' tragedies, tolerance, and triumphant recoveries from colonial influences

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Chinese New Year Binondo, Manila

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  1. Nicole Anderson 20 February, 2018 at 13:46 Reply

    Chinese New Year to me has always been such a fun and eventful time and I’ve always loved the celebrations watching the lion dances, listening to the fireworks etc. Until reading this post, I had no idea that Binondo has the oldest Chinatown in the world. I just love your photos that really convey so much of the color and vibrancy of this special yearly celebration.

  2. Soraya Nicholls 20 February, 2018 at 13:49 Reply

    What an interesting thing to learn that Binondo has the oldest Chinatown in the world! It must be so fascinating and interesting then to watch the festivities in the town during Chinese New Year. I never knew that touching the lion dancer is said to bring prosperity! I also appreciate that you have highlighted for everyone who enjoys the festivities to also be responsible and clean up after ourselves.

  3. Jen Morrow 20 February, 2018 at 14:31 Reply

    Chinese New Year is a party! The fire dancers are awe inspiring, bu the parade looks the best. It is serious skill to create and build the dragon costume, and entirely different skill to make it dance. That looks like such a fun festival to attend. Happy year of the dog!

  4. Ada 20 February, 2018 at 16:41 Reply

    I had no idea that the oldest Chinatown is in Philippines! Good to know! The celebration looks so fun over there! I went to see the Chinese New Years in London and it was so great! The dragon dance is always my favourite to watch! Great photos!

  5. Denny George 20 February, 2018 at 19:01 Reply

    Having visited the Philippines many times over the past decade, I was aware of the Chinese community and their influence in the country. But I never realized that chinese new year was celebrated with such aplomb in Manila. Your photos do take me to the streets of Bibin do.

    • findingjing 21 February, 2018 at 03:36 Reply

      Hi Denny! I must say the amount of people joining the New Year celebration in Binondo keeps growing based on what I observed through the years. Amidst the territorial claim issues between my country and China, it is hard to ignore that the Chinese community blends well with the Filipino community.

  6. Dada 20 February, 2018 at 20:43 Reply

    I am Thai and as in the Philippines we have a lot of chinese too and therefore we celebrate Chinese New year aswell. I havent been living in Thailand for a very long time and havent been celebrating the Chinese New year ever since and your post and your photos just brought back some of the memories of the dancing dragon and the smoky firecrackers! I must say that celebrating the Chinese New year in Binondo, in the oldest china town, looks very fun!

  7. Medha Verma 21 February, 2018 at 06:01 Reply

    The dragon and lion dance is my favourite part of Chinese New Year. I love how the streets become lively (I’ve travelled to Singapore & Malaysia during Chinese New Year), it’s such a carnival atmosphere! I can imagine it would be equally awesome in the Philippines, from your pictures. I would love to just be out and about, tasting all the amazing street food. Very good advice on being a responsible traveller and not littering.

  8. Blair Villanueva 21 February, 2018 at 12:25 Reply

    Gong xi fa cai!

    Last year I was there to celebrate the Lunar New Year, and it was an awesome day. This year I skipped Binondo and maybe will try to visit this coming weekends.
    Cantonese are mostly spoken my mainlanders in China, and Hokkien for Chinese based in Hong Kong, Malaysia , Singapore and even here in the Philippines.

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