Food, Fireworks, Family and Friends… that is your usual staple celebration of New Year’s Eve. What makes welcoming the new year uncommon for the rest of the world is celebrating it the Pinoy way. Here is a list of traditional New Year’s Eve Pinoy practices that have superstitious connotations to usher in a prosperous New Year.
1) Fireworks On top of greeting the new year with a big bang, fireworks are part of the new year celebration following a belief that making noise via loud fireworks (also includes banging pots and pans, turning up the volume on your radio or TV, and/or blowing your car horn) wards off the malevolent spirits. While igniting fireworks that are colorful, sparkly and twinkly attract the good.
Many Filipino children jump at the stroke of midnight in the belief that they would grow taller in the coming year if they do. The belief is that the higher the jump the taller they get. Adults also jump at the stroke of midnight, but before they do, they put lose change in their pockets and make sure that it jingles profusely to attract more money for the coming year.
Do you ever wonder why polka-dots is a popular fashion statement for New Year’s eve? You guessed it right, the circles stand for money and it is believed that wearing polka-dot patterns on December 31st attracts money.
A similar belief goes for displaying 12 circular fruit on the dining table for New Year’s Eve to attract a bounty for each of the 12 months of the year. Some people even take it a step further and have 13 round fruits for a little somethin’-somethin’ extra to enjoy. Some also add that the fruits should all be sweet… and so be wary of the citrusy round fruits, as sour is believed to “sour” relationships in the coming year.
4) The Number 12
The 12 months out of the year is what 12 stands for. In reference to the practice of having 12 round fruits in #3, Filipinos also practice eating 12 grapes at 12 midnight for happiness during each of the 12 months of the year. If eating grapes is not your thing, other Filipinos hang 12 grapes on their window sills and doorways, while some even go as far as putting cotton behind the grapes to signify that if a burden comes, it will be light.
There is also a belief that the first 12 days of the new year as being a crucial period. Some people are wary to spend or lend money for the first 12 days to avoid getting in debt for the anytime during the 12 months of the year. The first 12 days is said to set the stage for having organized finances for the rest of the year. On the other hand, some store merchants also practice lowering their prices for the first 12 days, so that they will have a lot of patrons for all 12 months, which might make the fulfilling the staying frugal a challenge for the first 12 days.
So we have covered the 12 round fruits and swallowing 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight, but other traditional food served during the new year include sweet sticky rice, such as biko, following the belief that it will make the fortune “stick” or last throughout the year. Others believe that it will keep your family sweet, loving, and close to each other.
Eggs can also be served, not only because this is round, but also because it signifies new life. Noodles are also a popular find on a Media Noche spread, as this is believed to bring long life. It is frowned upon to serve chicken or fish during the new year as this signifies scarcity in food (Fish for the bones, and chicken because chickens peck one morsel of food at a time when they eat).
6) Open and Close
Opening all windows, doors, drawers and cabinets (even the lights!) right before midnight and closing it immediately after is believed to let in the year’s blessing and locking it. Be careful to open your toilet door though, as it has been believed that opening the bathroom door only leads the “luck” you let in to get flushed down. So it may be this one time during the year that it would be wise to close your bathroom window, and a good idea to skip opening the bathroom doors.
Wishing for more money for the coming New Year is common practice. In line with this, many Filipinos make sure that their debts are paid off prior to the New Year. On new Year’s Eve, they stuff their wallets and pockets with money as well (also see #3). Some Filipinos also throw coins inside their house at the onset of midnight with the motion of throwing going towards the house to let money in. The kids have a blast gathering coins scattered around the house during this time, but there are households that give specific instructions for children to leave the coins that were scattered on the stairs. Some families even leave those coins on the stairs for the first 12 days of the year.
Not enough coins, well you can also tape coins by your door, put coins under your pillow, or put several coins in a glass of water and set the glass by the stairs or the door. On the morning of January 1st check the bubbles on the coins, the bigger the bubble the bigger the monetary blessings. If you happen to find bubbles under the coins, those signify an unexpected financial blessing.
Many households clean all the nooks and crannies and crevices in their homes right before the New Year. Makes sense to think of it as a symbolization of wiping your slate clean, or having a new beginning. However, it is forbidden to clean anything on the first day of the year, unless you want to wipe off all the luck that came in at midnight.
9) Stocking Up
Stocking up is something practiced alongside #8. The pantry is restocked and the rice bin is full, as it is believed that it will bring fulfillment and contentment in the coming year.
10) Stay Awake, Wake up Early
Adults and little children are encouraged to stay awake on New Years’ Eve as this signifies health and energy throughout the year. Now with all the merriment and noise making this shouldn’t be that hard to fulfill. What would be difficult is the belief that one should also wake up early the following day as it is believed that waking up early and being busy (but not with #8) signifies a year of finding a job or doing work that pays off.
11) Animal Sounds
When the fireworks stop, listen closely to the first sound you hear. It is believed that hearing a dog barking or a rooster is ominous as it signals sickness, natural calamities, death, or financial burdens. However, of the first sound comes from a goat, cow, or kalabaw, the year ahead brings abundance. So listen carefully.
While many will think that swishing water in your front yard after the fireworks is done is a gesture to make sure that no fireworks stay lit, or it is just a matter of cleaning up to push the little fireworks remnants to the gutter, there is actually a belief that this water cleansing is a ritual that is said to symbolize cleansing of the home and of the self. Rain is always welcomed openly on the first day of the year as this is believed to be a sure sign of abundance for everyone.
Not as popular as many on the list, is the practice of running around your house carrying luggage, or throwing luggage outwards of your front door. This is believed to make working abroad a dream come true for many aspiring OFWs.