In the Philippines New Year’s Eve is fun and crazy. It involves huge family gatherings, tons of food, lots of fireworks and noise, street parties and karaoke until the wee hours of the morning. Here are some traditions I grew up with :
1. Prepare a bountiful and lavish feast with lechon (roast pig), use premium ingredients to start the year with abundance.
2. Avoid chicken on the menu, it represents “isang kahig, isang tuka” or food scarcity.
3. Round food symbolizes luck and money. It is customary to find queso de bola or round Edam cheese, and a basket of round fruits becomes the table centerpiece.
4. From the Spanish, we learned to eat 12 grapes representing each month of the year for luck.
5. Serve sticky food like rice cakes for close family ties and also for luck to stick to you.
6. From the Chinese we learned to eat noodles for long life.
7. Unless a rich relative is hosting, most gatherings do potluck with each family contributing a dish. Distribute and take home the excess food because it is bad luck to throw away or waste food.
8. At altars food like rice, sugar, salt, fruits and produce are offered to the Gods or saints for blessing.
9. A senior family member gives a speech and leads prayer before meals.
10. From the Americans we learned to sing the Scottish song “Auld Lang Syne” for our New Year’s toast. This is a time for family members to make amends or forgive and forget.
11.Wear polka dots or circular patterns for luck. Wear green as it is the color of money, or for the Chinese red is lucky. South American tradition is wearing red or colorful underwear for a year of great sex.
12. To scare away bad luck make as much noise as you can at the stroke of midnight using pots and pans, firecrackers, torotot or horns, tying tin cans to cars and dragging them while on the road.
13. Have plenty of money in your pockets and in your wallet. Don’t keep them empty.
14. No spending or having debt during the first day of the year.
15. Children should jump at midnight to grow taller.
16. Turn on lights and keep your home bright.
17. Start all cars, blow horns, keep engine running so that they will work well.
18. Light New Year candles (each color representing love, prosperity, health, relationships, etc.) and burn your written resolutions.
19. Go to mass for blessings.
20. Before the year ends, discard the clutter in your home. No cleaning on New Year’s Day. You might sweep luck away.
21. Traditionally you need to clean your nose after the smog caused by the “putukan” or the midnight fireworks.
22. Call your loved ones abroad to greet them. Make them homesick by reminding them how its much more fun back home!
Happy New Year!