Filipinos lavishly prepare for the New Year’s Eve feast in comparison to the Christmas Eve meal. And, whereas the Christmas Eve meal is rooted in family traditions, the New Year’s Eve meal is defined by cultural superstitions and customs passed down through generations.
Therefore, if you are planning a holiday trip to the Philippines, be prepared to endure loud and prolonged noises from everywhere-you-look fireworks, dress in polka dots, and eat these foods, as they will bring you happiness, abundance, and health in the coming year.
Feast of the New Year’s Eve or Media Noche
Media Noche, or New Year’s Eve Feast, is a long-standing tradition in the Philippines, where the name sounds Spanish but is actually Chinese. Families, friends, and relatives gather around the dinner table to enjoy a night filled with food, drinks, and fireworks to ring in the New Year.
For a non-Filipino, the dishes may appear to be randomly chosen; however, they all resemble something, and again, the majority was influenced by the Chinese. Thus, what does a Filipino table look like during Media Noche?
Let’s begin with the celebration itself; as I mentioned previously, this is a time for family members, friends, and relatives to gather and enjoy copious amounts of food, drink, and laughter; this alone symbolizes family celebration and union.
12 Round Fruits on New Year’s Eve
Consuming grapes or small round fruits is another Hispanic tradition that dates all the way back to the colonization era. Twelve round grapes are required in one version, while twelve different round fruits are required in another. Whichever version is used, the fruits must be on the dining room table by new year’s eve. When it comes to grapes, each person must consume all twelve, but when it comes to the whole large fruits, each person simply takes a bite from each.
The round fruits symbolize prosperity due to their resemblance to ancient gold and silver coins. This superstition is also connected to the belief that wearing a polka-dotted shirt or dress on New Year’s Eve will bring prosperity in the coming year.
No Chicken or Fish on New Year’s Eve
An anecdote best illustrates this superstition. Two women, it appeared to be house helpers, were arguing about what to buy and cook for New Year’s Eve. One was about to purchase some chicken when the other objected and said:
“Ayaw ni Sir n’yan kasi buong darating na taon na isang kahig, isang tuka.”
This phrase is literally translated as follows:
“Oh, no, Sir, that would be unacceptable because it would imply that the coming year would be spent on scratch and peck [a slang term for living in poverty].”
The chicken’s way of eating is associated with hardship and poverty, as the bird is required to scratch and peck throughout the year. Although chicken is delectable, it is not served on New Year’s Eve.
As with chicken, fish is considered an animal that must scavenge for food, and thus does not appear on the menu for this celebration. Pig may be a preferred protein source in a number of households.
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Long Noodles for a Healthy and Prolonged Life
Noodles are not an indigenous component of Filipino cuisine; they were introduced by Chinese traders. The Filipinos incorporated noodles into their regional cuisines, along with the associated superstitions, as evidenced by their long noodles or pasta, most notably Pancit Canton, Pancit Bihon, Pinoy Spaghetti, Lomi, and Sotanghon.
Consuming noodles for longevity is primarily a Chinese belief that is observed during birthday and Lunar New Year celebrations. Therefore, never cut it prior to cooking; you will see what happens. The practice has permeated Filipinos’ New Year’s food superstitions.
Pancit is the dish of choice, and each family prepares it differently.
Something Sticky for Good Fortune to Stick
There are two versions of this superstition, both of which are based on a dish’s sticky characteristic. The stickiness in the first version represents a close-knit family. In the second version, the stickiness acts as a magnet, attracting and retaining good fortune.
Biko, Suman, Kalamay, Puto Calasiao, Tikoy, Royal Bibingka, or any sticky rice cake is believed to improve family relations and bonding, implying that families will “stick together” for years to come.
In either case, glutinous rice dishes are a staple of New Year’s celebrations.
Stock the Cupboards to Keep Them Full Throughout the Year
This is a tradition that families adhere to in order to avoid hunger and food scarcity in the coming year. Containers of staple foods such as rice, salt, and sugar are stuffed to the brim before new year’s eve to ensure they remain that way throughout the new year. Similarly, Filipinos ensure that their water containers are full to avoid a water shortage in the coming year.
Each corner of the house has containers filled to the brim to represent abundance; the more containers there are, the more blessings the family will receive.
Lechon Pork as a Prosperity Symbol
Pigs, on the other hand, are said to be the most auspicious Filipino food during the New Year. These plump creatures symbolize prosperity, and their noses point forward, indicating progress. That is why many families prepare lechon for the New Year, and if your budget is limited, roast pork head is an excellent alternative.
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Greens for Cash
It’s a no-brainer; US Dollars are green, and thus this color represents money; the more greens you serve, the more money you’ll have; additionally, if you eat a lot of this, you’ll be showered with good health; at least this one is true.
Now, to top it all off while enjoying this feast, you must wear polka dots as a sign of prosperity (they resemble coins), jump high at 12 midnight (make sure you are not yet stuffed with all of that food) to increase your height and make a noise, and if possible, bang everything, honk your car horn to your heart’s content, or light a lot of fireworks to ward off all evil spirits.
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