Dubai: In a few days, the world will ring in a New Year, often with grand celebrations. And just like everyone else, Filipinos, wherever they are in the world, mark the event as one of the year’s most special events.
In the Philippines, New Year celebrations are full of fun, and quirky observances. For starters, the whole country turns into a sort of war zone, with fireworks being set off with great abandon all over the place.
There are other interesting Filipino traditions — as well as superstitions or folk beliefs associated with the New Year.
For centuries, Filipinos have practiced various customs to greet the incoming year. Many do it with an expectant heart, cultivating optimism and looking forward to hoped-for prosperity. These traditions have been passed on from one generation to the next; a number of them have been influenced by the Chinese and Spanish.
Gulf News #Pinoy lists down some of the uniquely Filipino traditions and practices to welcome the New Year.
1. Wear polka dots dress
For Filipinos, wearing anything round signifies prosperity. The polka dots epitomise money and fortune.
2. Jumping high when the clock strikes 12
Children are encouraged to jump as high as they can when the clock hits 12 because old folks believe that it will help them grow taller.
3. Media Noche
New year’s celebration for the Filipinos is not complete without the old Filipino custom, Media Noche. During new year’s eve, Filipino families, relatives and friends gather for a lavish midnight feast that symbolises their hopes for prosperity and an abundant year ahead. This tradition is most likely inherited from the Spaniards, who colonised the country more than 300 years.
4. A variety of round-shaped fruits
For some it’s 12, 13 or 14 – but it doesn’t truly matter as long as you have round fruits on the table. Filipinos believe that round is a symbol for prosperity and fortune. This tradition was inherited from the Chinese. The round fruits are often the centerpiece of the Media Noche. Fruits with thorns like pineapple, jackfruit and durian are also avoided as the thorns symbolise problems or obstacles.
5. Eat sticky rice to strengthen family bond
Filipinos are known to be family oriented with very close family ties. They believe that eating food made from sticky rice like bibingka (a type of baked rice cake), biko (sweet rice cake) and tikoy (also known as nian gao, which is translated as Chinese new year's cake) will bind families together stronger. This is also believed to deliver good fortune.
6. Eat pancit (noodles) for long life and fortune
This is another influence from the Chinese. Filipinos believe that eating pancit (long noodles) during new year will help bring luck and it also represents good health and long life.
7. No chicken and fish dishes
If there are food that are believed to bring luck, there are also food that are considered are not suitable to eat during the new year celebration. A tradition that is still followed by some Filipinos is to abstain from eating chicken and fish, as they symbolise or are associated with food scarcity.
8. Water and rice container should be full
It’s always best to welcome the new year abundantly, so many Filipinos make sure the their water and rice containers are full during the new year celebration because they believe that this will make their life prosperous all year round.
9. Collect coins
Another popular practice especially among children is to fill up one’s pockets with coins and shake the pockets at 12 midnight. This practice is believed to bring good fortune. Some also scatter coins around their house – at every nook and corner, inside drawers, on tables and anywhere they believe will bring them more luck and money.
10. Loud noise to drive away evil spirits
Another Chinese influence are the firecrackers and fireworks. The main point is to create loud sounds to scare away evil spirits and elements and also to drive away bad luck.
Apart from pyrotechnics, others create loud noise through other means such as the car horn, torotot (hornpipe) and even frying pans or pots.
The video below, a bird's eye view of a Manila New Year, shows you a glimpse of how Filipinos take this tradition seriously.
11. Open doors, windows and turn on all the lights
Apart from food and coins that symbolise prosperity, another tradition is to open all doors, windows, drawers and cabinets to bring in good fortune and let the positive vibes in.
12. Debts must be paid off
Ideally, one should welcome the New Year debt free. It is believed that whatever is your financial state when the clock hits 12 midnight on new year’s day, will be the same financial status for the rest of the year. One should also stuff one’s pockets or wallet with new bills or at least lots of money to invite wealth for the entire year.
13. Don’t spend on January 1
It is believe that not spending a single peso on the first day of the year will lead to better financial management for the rest of the year. So there are Filipinos who would rather just stay at home on January 1 to avoid spending money.
Watch the video about how Filipino expatriates in Dubai celebrate New Year and what traditions are they still practicing.