My family is a bit traditional in many ways. Christmas and New Year’s Eve for us is family time spent at home, not outside in the malls nor on the streets.
Throughout the whole day of the 31st, the whole household was busy preparing for the midnight feast, consisting of several layers of chiffon cake, a traditional vegetable dish, beef steak, grilled tuna (for me), Filipino-style spaghetti, maja blanca, gelatin, some salad, and a few bottles of wine.
The lechon (roasted pig) was prepared later that night. Chicken is never included because of the Filipino belief that eating chicken will result to a hand-to-mouth existence. (Here’s how to cook lechon)
At 10pm, everybody went to mass. Our parents fervently hoped that Monsignor would not prolong the sermon as he did last year, because we HAD to be at home before midnight.
Again, it’s a Filipino belief that whatever you are caught doing by midnight will happen to you for the rest of the year. Being at home when the clock strikes 12 ensures that one would not go out as much in the coming year ahead.
(It did not seem to work with me though, with my itchy feet and all. I had also been jumping up and down for three decades, but I’m still short!)
Once home, we waited and then joined the countdown on television, greeting the New Year with much noise. We banged pots and pans, shouted at the top of our lungs, honked the horn, and generally became mad lunatics for a few minutes.
Our househelp who had been with us only for a few months couldn’t stop laughing, wondering probably what kind of household she had stumbled onto!
Jumping up and down was not enough; we had to go to every room in the house with our pots and pans to make noise and drive away any bad spirits there.
We also did not forget to have 12 coins in our pockets (one of a kind), to make sure we have money in the new year. (I wanted to include more—I need money to travel!—but my father said 12 was the prescribed number.)
Afterward, our father made us eat a bit of the 13 lucky fruits offered for the New Year. Every member of the family had to eat a bit of guava, mandarin orange, apple, tisa, caimito, chico, pear, orange, grapes, papaya, and pomelo, leaving half in the offering bowl.
I took a big chunk of the fruits I liked—apple, orange—but only nipped at some—the tisa was not ripe yet and the chico was icky! My father said it didn’t matter, as long as I ate some, and I left the rest in the bowl.
The most awaited moment, of course, was the feast! Like a lot of pinoys, majority of the dishes are meat so I only ate tuna and a bit of the salad. I couldn’t believe it when my brothers gobbled up the lechon; even seeing it already gave me cholesterol! “It’s only for the New Year,” they said. Sure.
Holidays are always a pleasure to me, not only because I get off work, but more importantly, because I get to be with my family.
Still, I had been wondering how the New Year’s celebration is in places like New York, or, okay, maybe Boracay. Perhaps someday, I’ll find out!