Filipino New Year traditions

December 22, 2010

In spite of problems, calamities, controversies and everyday struggles all year-round, no one celebrates the New Year more enthusiastically than Filipinos. As one of the happiest people in the world, we are ready to forget our troubles for a while and meet the coming year with hope, optimism and merry making born out of the unique traditions that had endured even in these modern times.

  • Filipinos literally starts the year with a bang!  In spite of government warnings and bans due to injuries, accidents and, sometimes, even death year after year, the tradition of lighting up firecrackers and fireworks still remains. Behind this is the belief that the noise, the light and smoke will drive bad luck and evil spirits away. The choices run from ear-splitting and dangerous favorites like lebentador (rebentador or labintador – an innocent-looking small triangle filled with powder that gives a very loud bang that can cause the loss of limbs), Sinturon ni Hudas (Judas Belt – imagine a long belt filled with hundreds of those lebentador-like things), Sawa (Snake – imagine a longer Judas Belt, with almost thousands of rounds), Super Lolo, Pla-Pla, Whistle Bomb, Baby Rocket, to things that are supposed to simply give out light lights and smoke like lusis (sparkler), roman candle and fountain. There is also watusi, a small firecracker that children like to rub against rough surfaces and release to make it crackle.
  • Those who don’t want to brave the dangers of firecrackers or fireworks are content to make noises another way. Torotot or toy trumpets/horns have been revised and improved over the years but remain to be a staple favorite for New Year noise-making. They are traditionally made from cardboard and plastic and decorated with colorful foil, paper or feathers.
    Other alternatives are hitting pots and pans, blowing on whistles, honking the car horn, playing music at top volume or just about anything that can make a lot of noise. Also behind this tradition is the belief that the noise drives evil spirits out of the house.
  • Filipinos also believe that all doors and windows must be open during the transition of the year so the bad luck and evil spirits that are being driven away by all the noise will leave the house for sure and good graces and luck will come in. However, this is often deemed impractical due to the smoke from the firecrackers filling the house and affecting people with asthma and, worse, the possibility of stray firecrackers or illegal gun bullets getting inside as well.
  • Media Noche, a dinner/feast partaken on the eve of December 31st, is the New Year counterpart of Christmas’ Noche Buena. But the most notable features of Media Noche are the 13 (12 for some) round fruits. 13 is a lucky number in the Chinese tradition and the round shape is a symbol for coins (i.e., money and prosperity). For some, the number 12 symbolizes the 12 months of the coming year, ensuring prosperity for each month.
  • Other traditions include putting of coins inside your pockets on New Year’s eve so you will be prosperous for the whole year; wearing polka-dotted clothes because the round shape symbolizes coins or money; and jumping high 12 times when the clock strikes 12 so you will grow taller.

Filed under: Pinoy Culture,Uncategorized


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