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The passing of the previous year is very symbolic for many people. For some it’s like a rite of passage and for others, it’s like an extreme form of worship. In the Philippines, Filipino family New Year traditions are gingerly followed and handed down to the next generations. Here are the most common practices.
Common Filipino Family New Year Traditions
Growing up, I have been exposed to some Filipino family New Year traditions. I have noticed some of them practiced by our neighbors while some were followed in our own home when we weren’t serious followers of Christ.
For example, December 24 was a big thing for us because it is my father’s birthday and Christmas Eve – not necessarily a celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth. Whatever happens, our table should be full of food and the home bustling with celebration.
Eventually, as we kept studying the Bible, our practices have evolved but some traditions and practices remained.
But one tradition that we started this year is the Sisters Exchange Gifts for Christmas. They picked their own gifts for each other based on a budget that we set. The holiday is one of the best times to reinforce the girls’ relationship with each other.
For Luck and Prosperity in the New Year
Moving on, here are some of the common as well as the bizarre Filipino New Year traditions. A lot of them are based on superstition but some can be fun and practical.
Having 12 Round Lucky Fruits on the Table
The concept is having 12 round, ripe, and sweet fruits on the center of the table during midnight. Each fruit represents the months of the following year—so that they will also be bountiful and sweet.
However, there were also people who argued that it’s best to have 13 fruits – like a safety net. I did not quite understand it, along with the fact that some families included even unripe fruits just to complete the number.
Wear Polka Dotted Clothes
Polka dots are round and symbolize money. Usually, the clothes are in red, too – the color of life. So the bigger the dots and having more of them on your clothing will bring in more money the following year.
Jumping High When the Clock Strikes 12
It is mostly the children who are encouraged to jump high when midnight strikes. The act is like jumpstarting your year with energy and gusto. But jumping high for children also means that they are going to grow much taller in the following year. Judging that most Filipinos have average heights, well, we know that doesn’t work. hehe
Making noise when the clock strikes 12 to ward off bad spirits and vibes is not just a Filipino thing. We use horns and firecrackers to make noise. Or we shout. Whatever instrument we have, we make jubilant noise to usher in the new year.
But in doing so, let us remember to stay on the safe side.
Having Money in the Wallet and Pockets
Having paper bills and coins in pockets and wallets at the start of the New Year signifies prosperity for the rest of the year. It’s believing that your money containers are going to overflow.
Some people put some coins in pockets, not only because they are money and round, they make jingling sounds when jumping high.
This is fun and there’s nothing wrong with this but it’s best to invest the money gifts we have received. We can put them in mutual funds with reputable financial institutions like BPI.
Light Up the Whole House
I am not sure if other families do this, but in our home, we would turn on all—as in ALL—the electric lights (toilet and bathroom lights, too). So these include the bulbs outside the house as well as the ones on the gate posts.
Open Doors and Windows
My father would open all the windows and doors of our home (but would close the gates for security). It’s like opening the home to positive energy for the New Year.
For me, it’s opening the house for the smoke of firecrackers so that my father and I can have asthma and allergic rhinitis attacks. Hahaha What a way to start the year.
Prepare Sticky Rice Dishes
Some other Filipino families prepare dishes made of glutinous rice (sticky rice). It is believed that eating these dishes will keep the family bond tight.
A word of warning though: Do not eat sticky rice with your fingers, drink liquor, and handle firecrackers. Many people have lost their fingers over this combo.
No Chicken and Fish Dishes
The dining table should be full of delicious dishes laid on round serving plates. In our home, I don’t think we have restrictions about chicken but we never prepared fish because nobody touches fish when there are meat dishes.
But for others the chicken and fish dishes are not good for the New Year preparation because the chicken flies and fish swims. It’s like your good fortune will fly and swim away.
Rice and Water Containers Should be Full
Water and rice are two staple commodities in the Filipino family household. Rice and water containers that have been filled for the New Year means that the family will never be go hungry in the coming year. Of course, it is assuming that breadwinners keep earning and whoever is assigned to buy them does not neglect her duties. hehe
Eat Noodles for Long Life
Apparently, the long life belief associated with noodles is not just for birthdays. (Read: Birthday Misua Recipe) Filipino families also prepare pancit (noodles) for the same reason during New Year.
While it is widely believed that women who cut their hair want to change their lives, those who cut their hair during the New Year just wants to leave some negative energies behind. You don’t have to have a new hairstyle—just a trim will do.
Waiting for Three Kings
Another Filipino New Year tradition that we follow in the Philippines is that the new year doesn’t end on January 1. It extends until January 6, which is the Feast of the Three Kings. Most families don’t even take down their Christmas decors until after then.
Other Family Traditions
Here are a couple of Filipino family traditions during the New Year that are not based on superstition.
Filipinos put a high value to relationships within the family. Wherever they are, whether they are abroad or in other cities, they try to make sure that they can take a leave from work and come home for the holidays. Never mind the traffic, people need to come home to their families. That is why family reunions are in order during the new
When we became Christians, we made it a point to have a family prayer before we retired on the morning of January 1. My father would gather us all in the room and we prayed for our family and the home. We would claim God’s promises for our family.
With all the New Year traditions of Filipinos, two things are common – family and home.
Now that I have my own family, my husband and I are also establishing New Year traditions with our girls.
How about you? What are the New Year family traditions you have grown up with?
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