Filipinos are very superstitious people. For every life event, there is a superstition in play. While living modern lives, Filipinos still live by deeply-ingrained superstitions, one way or another. We have New Year superstitions in the Philippines and a lot of them revolve around luck for the coming year.
So what are the most common New Year superstitions in the Philippines? One has something to do with round fruits for luck and another makes children jump for added height. I find most of these superstitions ridiculous sometimes. But having been raised in a Catholic superstitious family, I can’t seem to shake some off.
Most of our superstitions are harmless. That is to say, there is no harm in wearing polka dots and not eating chicken. Here are some of the New Year superstitions people still practice in the Philippines.
Loud noises drive away bad luck and evil spirits.
My entire childhood, I woke up on at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s to my grandmother banging on her trusty old kaldero (cooking pot). They say loud noises will drive away evil spirits so people make as much noise as they can while ushering in the New Year. Children blow on trumpet, grownups honk their car horns, play instruments, and turn up the speakers. Those with licenses light up the sky with fireworks.
Opening windows and turning on lights will usher luck in.
People believe that evil lurks in dark places so Filipinos turn on all lights in their homes at midnight. My mom even turns on the lamp she has on the bedside table. Windows are opened to let luck and blessings in, too. I remember having to cover my nose from all the smoke from the fireworks coming in through our open windows. Come to think of it, that may have been why I had asthma attacks shortly after New Year.
Round fruits will bring prosperity.
Filipinos display and eat 12 different kinds of round fruits on their Media Noche table. Twelve fruits represent each month of the year and the shape signified money (coins). The belief originated from the Chinese who believe that round fruits like persimmons, watermelons, and grapes will bring a fruitful and happy year for all members of the family.
Pancit makes you live longer and chicken will make you poor.
Eating pancit for long life is not just practiced on New Year, it’s also done during birthdays to “ensure” a long life for the celebrator. For the Chinese, pancit (or any noodle dish for the matter) symbolize long life and health. On the other hand, eating chicken is frowned upon. Chicken scratch the dirt for food and you might have the same hardship if you eat it on New Year.
Fish must be served head to tail for surplus and fortune.
If you’re serving fish, make sure not to cut it before serving. Fish symbolize surplus and fortune for the Chinese but it must be served complete. Also, as a form of respect, the head part must face the head of the family. Once you’re done eating one side of the fish, do not turn it over because it’s bad luck.
Eat something sweet for a sweet year ahead.
This one may not hold true but my sweet tooth finds it as an excuse to have cake in the middle of the night. Eating something sweet for a sweet year is one of the New Year superstitions in the Philippines that seems outrageous. But people do it anyway because Filipinos have a soft spot for anything sweet.
Wear polka dots for prosperity.
Much like the round fruits, the round spots on the polka dot pattern are said to bring prosperity to the wearer. I remember wearing matching polka dot dresses with my sister and cousins when we were younger but I don’t practice it now.
Fill your pockets with large bills and coins for money all year.
They say the condition you’re in when midnight strikes sets the tone for the rest of the year. Start the year happy and full and you’ll be that way for the entire year. Start the year with pockets full of cash and you won’t have financial issues in the next 12 months. I always wear something with pockets on New Year’s Eve and place at least a thousand bucks in each pocket. The husband and I have also taken the tradition of throwing coins inside the house from outside to symbolize money coming in.
Jump as high as you can at midnight to grow taller.
Children are encouraged to jump as high as they can at midnight in order to grow taller. I have bought into this superstition until I was about 15 and then I realized it’s useless. I am only 5 feet tall despite at least 13 years of jumping at midnight. It’s fun watching children jump up and down though so I will not be telling my daughters it really does not work.
Filipinos are both religious and superstitious. The Spanish rule has inculcated Christian values present to this day. But our close relations with our Chinese neighbors have made us believe our actions have mystic effects on our lives. The belief in New Year superstitions in the Philippines is deep-seated and it’s not going away anytime soon. It couldn’t hurt if we get health and fortune out of them, right?