Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year Traditions

We are approaching the end of 2011 as I type this. Of course, most of my friends have already marked 2012, and those keeping Mountain Time has just passed midnight.

I started thinking of traditions my family has done when the clock turns to midnight, marking the coming of the new year. In the days leading up to it, my mum would start gathering 13 round fruits to place in a bowl at the dining room table. Why thirteen and why round?

This is a tradition that came from the Chinese. The fruits need to be round because they signify coins, which signify wealth and prosperity. As for the 13, I've heard many different reasons, but the explanation my mum gave makes sense: she merely pointed at the tapestry of the Last Supper on the wall when I had asked her about it. It, of course, depicts Jesus and His 12 apostles, hence 13 fruits. It's a perfect explanation, especially considering that the majority of Filipinos are Catholic and/or Christian.

Of course, another explanation is that the number is lucky, so having 13 round fruits should bring about luck and prosperity for the new year.

Here's another thing: some say the number should actually be 8 because to the Chinese, it sounds similar to the word for wealth or to prosper. So whether one does 8 or 13 round fruits, the effect is still the same: it's done to bring about good luck and prosperity for the new year.

More traditions: My mum hangs green grapes at the kitchen window. She'll put a fresh bunch on a hook on New Year's Eve, where it will hang for the entire year. She said it signifies money and prosperity.

As the clock turns to midnight, you would be wearing polka-dots, and you should have some money in your pocket, which will also signify prosperity in the new year. Essentially, if you wear anything round (there's the round thing again), it resembles coins, which signifies wealth and prosperity in the coming year.

If you're a kid, you would jump up and down in hopes that you would grow taller. Even if you're not a kid, you'd still jump up and down anyway. :)

We also turn on every single light in the house. It's said that your coming year will be filled with light if you do that. In addition, all the doors and windows would be open, which means all the grace would be flowing in for the new year.

In the Philippines, it's very common to set off fireworks as the clock goes past midnight. One would set them off to give off light to greet the new year.

Filipinos have a tendency to celebrate "Media Noche", which is the counterpart to "Noche Buena" which one does after Midnight Mass. The Media Noche would be a meal to honour Mary, especially since January 1 marks the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, in addition to being for 2012 the Octave Day of the Nativity of the Lord. The food on the table: in addition to all the round fruits, one would have noodle dishes. My friend, Jared, said he had spaghetti after midnight struck in the Philippines. We made sotanghon ("glass" noodles made from mung beans). The symbolism is that the long noodles signify long life.

There would also be an abundance of food in the house.

What traditions do you observe as the new year dawns?

1 comment:

JohnF said...

I have red chile ristras hanging on my front porch. That's really more of a Christmas thing than a New Years thing, just a way of decorating. My mom, who lives in New Mexico, sent them to me this year. I haven't seen anyone else in St. Louis hanging chile ristras this year (or any other year), but a lot of people have them throughout New Mexico.

On Christmas Eve, I like to go buy lots of strange cheeses and eat them close to midnight. Some of them are round. That's not a meaningful cultural tradition, though, just something I do.