New Year’s Eve in the Philippines

New Year’s Eve is one of the most anticipated annual celebrations in the Philippines. Filipinos welcome this with revelry by making a lot of noise and eating tons of sinful food (and drinking like the world’s end is near) with family and friends. Since New Year’s Eve signals the end of an era and the beginning of a new one, a lot of Filipinos adhere to traditions and superstitions to usher in the coming year with their best foot forward.

On New Year’s Eve, Filipinos attend the midnight mass and partake in a lavish media noche.

 In terms of clothing, any item with polka dots is popular. Polka dots closely resemble the roundness of coins, so they are believed to symbolize prosperity for the year ahead.

Clothes with polka dots pattern mean prosperity

Clothes with polka dots pattern mean prosperity

In order to increase the chance of unlimited financial wealth, Filipinos make sure that the polka-dot-patterned clothes have pockets that can hold several coins. At the stroke of midnight, these coin-filled pockets are jingled—music to attract more money. The excess coins that cannot fit inside the pockets are scattered all over the house–on top of tables, on the floor, in drawers, and every nook and cranny imaginable.

Coins are placed in pockets and jingled at midnight to attract wealth. There are 35 1-peso coins because tomorrow, December 30, is José Rizal’s death anniversary. Rizal was 35 when he faced the firing squad.

Coins are placed in pockets and jingled at midnight to attract wealth. There are 35 1-peso coins because tomorrow, December 30, is José Rizal’s death anniversary. Rizal was 35 when he faced the firing squad.

Coins are scattered around the house to ensure financial gain

Coins are scattered around the house to ensure financial gain

Filipinos also fill their wallets with bills in the hope that their wallets will never be empty for the next 365 days.

Philippine bills for the wallet of those who want to have a prosperous year

Philippine bills for the wallet of those who want to have a prosperous year

The preoccupation over money crosses over to food. 12 round fruits are prepared every December 31st. The roundness of the fruit is like the polka dots pattern on clothes, they signify prosperity. Why 12? There are 12 months in a year, and nobody wants to be short by a month or two. Some people prepare 13 fruits to have a surplus for travel, savings and investment. There should be no repetition of fruits, and some fruits bring more luck than others.

Round fruits

Round fruits

Round fruits

Round fruits

Round fruits

Round fruits

Round fruits

Round fruits

While giving much ado about money, Filipinos do not forget about their well-being. Food like pancit, spaghetti and bihon are popular because they have long noodles. Long noodles mean long life. I think it makes a lot of sense because what will happen to all the money the coins and round fruits will bring in if the recipient will have a short life? Maybe the long noodles will counteract the adverse effects of eating lechon, crispy pata,leche flan, and other cholesterol-rich food this holiday. 🙂

Noodles mean long life

Noodles mean long life

After wishing for good things to happen, Filipinos also like these good things to stick around for the rest of the year. This is why food made with glutinous rice makes it to the list. Other people say that the glutinous food is not only for good luck to last as long as it can, but also for the family members to remain close.

Kutsinta (brown) and puto (white) are made with glutinous rice

Kutsinta (brown) and puto (white) are made with glutinous rice

When the clock strikes 12, Filipino children jump so that they will grow taller the following year. I think I did not do a lot of jumping in my younger years.

Jump for an inch or two increase in height

Jump for an inch or two increase in height

While jumping, Filipinos make sure to blow a torotot (trumpet) to make a lot of noise in order to drive the evil spirits away. This blowing of torotot lasts for a few moments, close to 12 midnight. The torotot below are what we have accumulated in the last few years.

My favorite noisemakers-torotot. The one on the right is the oldest among the three, it is also the loudest.

My favorite noisemakers-torotot. The one on the right is the oldest among the three; it is also the loudest.

Different incarnations of torotot. The one on the right is handheld. Push the round part at the top and the torotot will make a sound that is similar to the one made by jeepney’s horn.

Different incarnations of torotot. The one on the right is handheld. Push the round part at the top and the torotot will make a sound that is similar to the one made by jeepney’s horn.

Festive torotot that do not make as much noise as the others, but they look nice.

Festive torotot that do not make as much noise as the others, but they look nice.

Another way of driving evil spirits away is lighting firecrackers or fireworks. They make the sky beautiful and lively even for only a quarter or half an hour, like an elegant woman wearing her best clothes on her special night out. At around 1230am, the sky goes back to its ordinary self, dark and unfathomable, with thick clouds of smoke whirling everywhere and nowhere.

 

While this is happening, doors and windows remain open to let in the blessings.

In the Philippines, chicken is not a popular animal on New Year’s Eve. Chicken is synonymous with hardship because its existence is isang kahig isang tuka (hand-to-mouth).

The following day, New Year’s Day, Filipinos make a conscious effort to not spend a centavo. This action stems from the belief that whatever one does on the first day of the year will dictate what how he will conduct himself for the remainder of the year.

A week ago, my Spanish professor discussed how they celebrate New Year’s Eve in Spain. One of the things they do is eating a grape at each bell strike just before midnight, a total of 12 grapes in 12 seconds. The grapes represent prosperity.

Las doce uvas de la suerte

Las doce uvas de la suerte (the 12 grapes of luck)

I do not make a list of New Year’s Resolution, but if I were to make one, it would include the following: eat like Aomame, write and be a manipulator of language like Tengo and think like Komatsu. And yes, finish this novel I am reading.

Manigong Bagong Taon! Happy New Year! ¡Feliz Año Nuevo! Mahamungaya-on nga Bag-ong Tuig!

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