Happy New Year!
Filipino Celebrations and Superstitions
Filipinos are generally superstitious. This is not surprising given that the country’s version of Catholicism is steeped in the rich brew of folk magic and cross-cultural traditions.
The Chinese, Americans, Japanese (and to a certain extent, the French, British and the Dutch) have all landed ashore at some point or another in Philippine history. In the process, they shared some of their superstitions and beliefs to the natives.
For example: A good number of Filipinos believe in the power of Chinese feng shui to ensure that their homes are designed in such a way as to attract good spirits and drive away the bad, and the medical doctor is not always the go-to person when a kid suffers from fever or a swollen arm, because the witch doctor or albularyo/hilot can probably ‘take care’ of the problem just as well, and for a fraction of the price.
New Year, Old Traditions
The upcoming New Year’s Eve is just one of the many Pinoy celebrations that are wrapped up in folk superstitions. The queer thing is that Filipinos continue to follow the same old rules year in and year out, making only slight modifications when their budget is a little tight. Other people might think that these traditions are just a bunch of crazy tips, but we’d rather be safe than sorry.
Most of these pointers have to do with the New Year’s Eve dinner or Media Noche, but some prescriptions are also made for what to wear and what to do when the new year comes in.
Here’s what a Pinoy to-do list on New Year’s Eve would probably look like:
Buy a dozen round fruits.
Yes, only round fruits are permitted at the dinner table when the clock strikes twelve and the new year is ushered in. Filipinos believe that these fruits bring good luck—more specifically money—to the family.
Don’t ask me why it has to be 12, but my best guess is that it symbolizes the twelve months of the year that was and the year that has yet to be. That means that the markets will be fresh out of apples, oranges, grapes, watermelons, pomelo and other similarly-shaped fruits.
Serve something sticky and something long for dinner.
Rice is the staple food of the Filipinos, that’s why we believe in having something sticky (preferably made with rice, like biko, suman or goto) for Media Noche. Sticky food makes for a closely-knit family all throughout the coming year.
For the “long” food, we usually have lumpiang Shanghai (ground pork in pastry wrapper) and pasta or pancit. Long food means long life, as any self-respecting traditional Chinese national will tell you. We stay away from anything chicken because it symbolizes what is known in the vernacular as “isang kahig, isang tuka” or hand-to-mouth existence.
No fried chicken until January 2nd at the earliest.!
Finish it sweet.
Supper isn’t over until you’ve served dessert, a big hit among kids and adults alike. Most Pinoy families go for the sweet-and-colorful combination of creamy salad, made with either fresh or canned fruits. Others bake their own cakes or buy ice cream. Turon (fried bananas) is also a popular choice, as it also fulfils the long food requirement.
Wear something with polka-dots.
Again, the recurring theme is to attract money symbolized by the round pattern of your clothes. The more colourful your outfit, the better because this is supposed to encourage good vibes and happiness for the coming year. Reds, golds and blues are some of the most favorite New Year colors in the Philippines.
Jump when the countdown comes to zero.
At exactly 12am on December 31, you will see Filipinos of all ages jumping up and down as they herald the New Year, their pockets jingling with coins and a rosary. No matter how old you may be, we believe that leaping into the air will make you grow taller next year. The coins in your pocket will breed more money, and your rosary will guide you throughout the New Year’s challenges.
Turn on all the lights and open all doors and windows.
We want to welcome the New Year with open arms and to dispel the shadows lurking in our homes. No matter how incredibly smoke-filled the air may be due to the fireworks being set off all across the neighbourhood, Filipinos are wont to throw open every door and window in the house to welcome the New Year. All the lights are also switched on, from the tiniest Christmas sparklers to the overhead lamps. This way, good vibes come in and bad ones go out.
Put on loud music.
And when we say loud, we mean really LOUD. Just like the Chinese tradition of lighting firecrackers to scare away bad spirits with noise, we crank up the volume on our stereo sound systems and MP3 players every New Year’s Eve. All the woofers and loudspeakers in the house are pressed into service and even dragged out onto the garage to achieve the desired loudness. Some families even rent karaoke units to have a blast on this very important occasion.
Have you been lucky enough to spend New Years Eve in the Philippines? Share your experiences in the comment section below.