Filipinos have a unique way of welcoming the New Year. Many of these superstitions have been passed down through generations, and they become part of the Filipino customs and traditions in the belief of ushering in a prosperous New Year.
To prepare for New Year’s Eve, Filipinos spend the last days of the year vigorously cleaning everything. However, you are not supposed to do any cleaning on New Year’s Day, so you don’t sweep away the good fortune that came in on New Year’s Eve.
Filipinos try to dress in polka-dots because anything round signifies prosperity. Pockets are filled with round coins, which are jangled to attract wealth. Coins are also scattered around the house, on top of tables and in drawers.
Before the clock strikes midnight to herald in the new year, turn on all lights so that the coming year is bright. All doors must be left wide open to let good fortune in. This includes cupboards, drawers, cabinets, and windows!
At the exact moment of midnight, Filipino children jump twelve times and as high as they can because they believe this will make them taller.
Filipinos go all out with fireworks and other noisemakers on New Year’s Eve to make as much noise as they can, including clanging pots and pans to scare away evil spirits. Children love scratching the dancing firecracker, watusi, against concrete sidewalks and cemented surfaces, although the government has warned against it because of chemical poisoning.
A few men shoot guns in the air if they think they can get away with it. When I was going up, my father used his 45-caliber revolver only on New Year’s Eve, shooting into the air. Cars and trucks are vroomed, and horns are tooted to cause as much noise as possible. Empty cans are dragged all around, and whistles are blown.
Pay off all your debts. Fill up wallets with new bills. Filipinos believe that whatever your financial state is in at the stroke of midnight, it will be the same in the new year. And don’t start the year off by spending money on January 1st. Your thriftiness on the first day of the year will set the tone for wise money management in the coming year.
Filipinos celebrate Media Noche (Spanish for midnight) or Bisperas ng Bagong Taon (“New Year’s Eve” in Tagalog), a festive time in the Philippines. Special food is prepared, but not as lavish as the Noche Buena feast on Christmas Eve, although some families might be wealthy enough to have another Lechon (roasted pig) after serving one on Christmas.
Pancit (long noodles) are cooked to signify long life, as eggs signify new life. Traditional native delicacies made from malagkit (glutinous or sticky rice) are prepared to make good fortune stick around throughout the year. Fish and chicken are not served because they are associated with the scarcity of food.
Have 12 round fruits, one for each month of the coming new year. Part of the fun is to come up with twelve (12) different round fruits, which is not easy at this time of the year. Besides grapes, oranges, clementines, cantaloupe, pomelo, watermelon, half of the fruits likely end up being non-circular like mangoes. The fruit that Filipinos most associate with the celebration of the new year and will rarely be without is imported ubas, purple grapes, that are very round. Have a round grape in your mouth at the stroke of midnight.
MANIGONG BAGONG TAON! Happy New Year!
Rosalinda Morgan, Author of “Saving Wentworth Hall”