New Year’s Eve in the Philippines is a time when the country’s unique blend of Eastern and Western influences is absolutely unmistakable.
Traditions and beliefs from Spain and China combine with homegrown practices to create an event that’s distinct from anywhere else in the world.
Here are a dozen uniquely Filipino features of New Year’s Eve:
Jumping in the air when the clock strikes 12
Children are encouraged to jump up in the air when the clock strikes 12 to help them grow taller.
Wear polka-dot clothing
In a borrowing from Chinese culture, anything round signifies money and good fortune — including coin-shaped patterns on your clothing.
Assemble a range of round fruits
Again, round objects invite wealth and luck. The fruits are often the centrepiece of the Media Noche (see below). However, thorny fruits such as pineapple or durian are to be avoided as the thorns symbolise problems or obstacles.
An inheritance from the Spanish, at least in name, this is a big midnight feast including as many friends and family as possible.
Sticky rice glues the family together
Eating food made from sticky rice like bibingka (baked rice cake) will help to bind families together.
Pancit (noodles) for a long life
Another influence from the Middle Kingdom. Eating long noodles on New Year’s Eve represents good health and long life.
Chicken and fish are off the menu
Some families abstain from fish and fowl on the big night.
Fireworks and noise to see off evil spirits
This unmissable feature of the Filipino New Year’s Eve is another borrowing from China. As well as fireworks, loud noise can also be created by tooting car horns, blowing on a torotot (hornpipe) and even banging pots and pans.
Open doors and windows and turn on every light
If you want luck for the new year, you have to invite it in! For some families, this tradition even extends to opening drawers and cupboards.
Fill your pockets with coins
Children are often encouraged to fill their pockets with coins and rattle them at midnight. Some also place coins all around the house – leaving them in every nook and cranny.
Pay off your debts
In an ideal world, you should be free of debt when the clock strikes 12. Otherwise, you will continue to owe money for the rest of the year.
Don’t spend a single peso on January 1
Many believe that not spending anything on the first day of the year will boost their fortune for the next 12 months. Some Filipinos will even stay at home all day to avoid any temptation to spend!