TALON! MANIGONG BAGONG TAON!” my mom screams in Tagalog as the ball drops and the clock hits twelve. I jumped as high as my little legs would allow.
My mother’s words translate to “Jump! Happy New Year!” This is part of a fun Filipino New Year’s tradition where the kids jump as high as they can in hopes to grow that much taller in the new year. As one of five kids, the competition to jump the highest has always been intense.
When I was younger, my older brother Alvaro purposely pushed me right before the jump so he would be taller. The tables turned over time as he and I are basically the same height now. Jumping at midnight was my favorite Filipino New Year’s tradition until 8th grade when I realized I wasn’t going to grow anymore; I still blame my brother for it to this day.
The Filipino culture celebrates New Year’s in a unique way that will always hold a special place in my heart. The week before New Year’s Eve is always one of our busiest as we prepare for the celebration. Cooking has the entire family occupied as having a full table of food is another important Filipino tradition representing the hope for abundance for the year.
The most important dish to have on the table is called Pancit. It’s a combination of vegetables, fish tofu and shrimp with transparent noodles. Pancit is essential as it represents long life and good health. This dish is common among all Filipino celebrations especially for birthdays. In these celebrations, food is just as important as family and along with the importance of Pancit, rice is just as essential. Rice represents the bonds of family as food brings people together and it’s always part of our daily meals.
As we continue to fill the table with traditional food, we include 12 rounded fruits. Each fruit has to be different as each represents a month of the year. Only sweet fruits, such as oranges and peaches, are allowed as they symbolize the hope for prosperity throughout the new year.
As we feast on the abundance of the table on New Year’s Eve, we’re all dressed in polka dots. The polka dots represent money and fortune for the new year. Many of our Filipino traditions come from our descent from the Chinese and Spanish. Throughout the house, we place coins on the window seal because this represents luck. My family leaves the coins there through the year to keep the luck when we need it.
When midnight comes close, my mom tells all of the kids to run around the house turning on all the lights and open the doors as fast as we can to let the positive vibes come into the house for good fortune. As the countdown begins and there’s thirty seconds left, all the kids make as much noise as they can to drive out the evil spirits.
In the last ten seconds, we all gather together in the living room and countdown with the ball drop. The kids are jumping and the parents make a toast to the New Year.
Manigong bagong taon!