Welcome 2019: Knowing more about the New Year

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As I See It

By ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO

For my last two columns, I devoted on the question on why we really have to make a New Year’s resolution for the coming year 2019 despite breaking them anyway minutes after jumping on New Year’s Eve countdown (Year 2019: Do we really have to make a New Year’s Resolution? – Parts 1 & 2).

This time, I would like to touch on superstitions or beliefs our forefathers handed to us for generations which we still adhere to or believe it happens on New Year’s Day. As FilAms, I think we really need to know our roots, our traditions and beliefs our forefathers taught us while we were in the Philippines, especially to us who lived in the remote barrios (now barangays) before coming to the US. This will also give our children, especially those who were born in the US, a chance to know our practices on New Year’s Day. This is a teaching or learning moment for them… also for us!

On New Year’s Eve (Bisperas ng Pasko in Tagalog) or Media Noche (Spanish for midnight) of December 31, my wife Delia prepared sumptuous dinner with at least 12 rounded fruits (representing each month of the coming year) prominently displayed side by side with the food she cooked herself. She avoided chicken because of the idea of kahig isang tuka (literal translation to English – one scratch, one peck; phrase – live from hand to mouth) saying which is attributed to chicken, as our old folks told us. So with fish because it is associated with the scarcity of food. Fish and chicken are not served because these animals scrounge for food, and we don’t want to have to scrounge for food in the coming year, we were told.

I still remember my grandmother telling us, the children… we need to jump at the end of the countdown, so we can grow taller. My two younger children wearing polka dot shirts and socks (representing prosperity) did exactly the same thing at the strike of one in the countdown.

Also, we opened all the lights to make the surroundings bright signifying that the coming year will be bright and shining.

All these beliefs I mentioned and did on New Year’s Eve, were corroborated by Tagaloglang.com (https://www.tagaloglang.com) when I went to the internet to validate the many interesting Filipino superstitions or folk beliefs we were practicing. The link claims that Filipinos say you should observe the following customs and traditions to ensure that the New Year being welcomed is a prosperous one which superstitions bear a strong Chinese influence.

Other than those already mentioned, to prepare for the New Year’s Eve, Tagaloglang.com mentioned making a noise as you can scare away evil spirits. That’s the reason why we have a lot of the traditional fireworks being practiced by individuals and groups or corporations conducting fireworks display in public places to drive the evil spirits and providing entertainment at the same time.

One thing we didn’t do is opening all doors, windows, cabinets and drawers to let good fortune in. Was this the rationale for the open door policy in offices and establishments nowadays?

Well, according to Tagaloglang.com, another belief is that debts must be paid off, fill your wallet with fresh dollar (peso in the Philippines) bills. Filipinos believe that whatever your financial state is in at the stroke of midnight, so it will be in the New Year, the link explained.

On New Year’s Day itself, Tagaloglang.com said, “Don’t clean anything! You might sweep away the good fortune that came in on New Year’s Eve and don’t spend money at all. Your thriftiness on the first day of the year will augur your money management in the coming year”. We do clean weeks before to prepare for the holidays but on New Year’s Day, we don’t!

Of course we had pancit (noodles) on the table. It signifies long life, as are eggs signifying new life. We also have the traditional delicacies made from malagkit (glutinous or sticky rice) like biko signifying good fortune that will stick around throughout the year. Fish and chicken are not served because these animals, according to Tagaloglang.com, scrounge for food, and we don’t want to have to scrounge for food in the coming year.

According to Tagaloglang.com, the same way Americans enjoy Fourth of July fireworks, Filipinos go all out with the noise on New Year’s Eve. Filipino paputok (firecrackers) come in so many shapes and go by very interesting names — judas belt (a string of firecrackers), super lolo (“grandfather”), kwitis (from the Spanish word cohetes meaning rocket), bawang (“garlic”), airwolf…

Children love scratching the dancing firecracker watusi against concrete sidewalks and cemented surfaces, although the government has been warning against it because of chemical poisoning. I loved scratching the dancing firecracker when I was still in the Philippines. It is safe and very thrilling to play with despite the warning of the government.

I remember dragging empty cans all around the area with friends too! We also blew whistles. These are safe ways of celebrating the New Year, instead of deadly strong firecrackers. We witnessed a lot of people being sent to the hospitals, dying caused by strong firecrackers.

We were told by our old folks that if we follow these rituals, we are sure to have a Happy New Year every year… this time in 2019!

Happy New Year to all! Manigong Bagong Taon sa lahat!

(For feedbacks, comments… please email the author @ estiokoelpidio@gmail.com).

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