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How My Family in the Philippines Celebrates New Year's Eve
By Charles, Calgary, Canada
Most people in the Philippines celebrate New Year’s Eve in their homes. It is usually an occasion just like Christmas, when a family reunion takes place.
There are three main elements that are usually present in the celebration: 1. family, 2. (lots of) food, 3. firecrackers.
Family. New Year’s Eve is usually an opportunity for Filipinos to spend time with their families. It is common for Filipinos who are working in the big city to plan their trip to their hometowns way before the holidays arrive. Those who are unable to go home to their hometown for Christmas Eve because of work are given a second chance to celebrate another major holiday with their family with the New Year's Eve celebration. People who are not able to plan their trips or reserve bus tickets beforehand usually have a difficult time catching a ride because bus terminals are jam-packed during this time of the year.
Those who are lucky to be given a chance to spend time with their families will be in for lots of fun. Some Filipinos celebrate New Year's Eve not only with their immediate family, some will have relatives over. It is not uncommon to see grownups: parents, uncles, aunts, siblings, cousins spending time in the kitchen preparing abundant amount of food. Some help each other in the kitchen while others are in charge of grilling barbecue, stuffed fish, squid, hotdogs, etc. outside the house.
Kids on the other hand spend time with their cousins and neighbour friends playing games, lighting up firecrackers, teasing each other, playing pranks, having a good time. Once in a while they'll rush into the kitchen or the dining room to grab food and drinks then go outside the house again to resume their playing. Kids in the Philippines are actually lucky because they have the luxury to spend time outdoors, meet with neighbourhood kids, play games, and enjoy their childhood to the fullest because the weather is mostly ideal.
Food. Filipinos love meat dishes. And it is common for Filipinos to prepare chicken, pork and beef dishes for New Year's Eve. Dining tables usually abound with colors, as a variety of dishes are laid on it. The dining table is a venue for a fusion of traditional Filipino and non-traditional dishes. This typically include Adobo, Menudo, Mechado, Kare-Kare, Sinigang, Lechon (kawali), fried chicken, barbecue, grilled fish, spring rolls, pansit (stir-fried noodles), spaghetti (w/ hotdogs), chopsuey, dinakdakan, kilawen, (macaroni, fruit and vegetable) salads, rice cakes (bibingka, puto, kutsinta, suman), maja blanca, and a variety of fruits. (Not familiar with some or most of the food I'm talking about? I'll just say, "Google has the answers.".)
Because of the abundance of food prepared for New Year's Eve, leftover food is also usually abundant the next day. Families usually don't have to cook the next day or two until leftovers are depleted. Just open the fridge, choose and devour. Another day or two for just fun and relaxation.
Fireworks. Filipinos greet the New Year with a bang! Literally. No one really knows since when firecrackers and sparklers have been a part of Filipino New Year's eve revelry. I just know that since the very first New Year's Eve celebration that I can remember, every single one of it is deafening with every hiss, boom, crack and whistle from all kinds of firecrackers Filipinos can get their hands on and that their wallets can buy.
Here are the most common firecrackers and sparklers Filipinos light up for New Year's celebration:
(1) Baby rocket — A firecracker with a stick so constructed that lighting of the wick will propel the whole thing to lift a few meters before exploding. The firecracker is about 1 ½ inches in length by 3/8 inch in diameter while the stick is about a foot in length;
(2) Skyrocket (kwitis) — A large version of a baby rocket designed to be propelled to a height of forty (40) to fifty (50) feet before exploding
(3) Bawang (Garlic) — A firecracker larger than a triangulo with 1/3 teaspoon of powder packed in cardboard tied around with abaca strings and wrapped in shape of garlic;
(4) Small triangulo/ triangle firecrackers— A firecracker shaped like a triangle with powder content less than the bawang and usually wrapped in brown paper measuring ¾ inch length in its longest side; rated depending on size; also known as Polumna firecrackers, Mexican style firecrackers, Black Bermudas
(5) Pulling of strings — A firecracker consisting of a small tube about an inch in length and less than ¼ of an inch in diameter with strings on each end. Pulling both strings will cause the firecracker to explode;
(6) Paper caps — Minute amount of black powder spread in either small strips of paper on a small sheet used for children’s toy guns;
(7) El diablo — Firecrackers tubular in shape about 1 ¼ inches in length and less than ¼ inch in diameter with a wick; also known as labintador;
(8) Watusi — Usually reddish in color about 1 ½ inches in length
and 1/10 inch in
width usually ignited by friction to produce a dancing movement and a crackling sound;
(9) Judah’s belt — A string of firecrackers consisting of either diablos or small triangulos that can number up to a hundred or thereabout and culminating in large firecracker usually a bawang;
B. Pyrotechnic Devices:
(1) Sparklers — Pyrotechnic devices usually made of black powder on a piece of wire or inside a paper tube designed to light up and glow after igniting;
(2) Luces — Any of several kinds of sparklers;
(3) Fountain — A kind of sparkler conical in shape which is lighted on the ground and designed to provide various rising colors and intermittent lights upon being ignited;
(4) Jumbo regular and special — A kind of sparkler similar to a “fountain” but bigger in size;
(5) Mabuhay — Sparklers bunched into a bundle of a dozen pieces;
(6) Roman candle — A sparkler similar to a “fountain” but shaped like a big candle;
(7) Trompillo — A pyrotechnic device usually fastened at the center and designed to spin first clockwise and then counter-clockwise and provides various coloured lights upon being ignited;
(8) Airwolf — A kind of sky rocket shaped like an airplane with a propeller to rise about forty (40) or fifty (50) feet and provide various kinds of light while aloft;
(9) Whistle device — Any of the various kinds of firecrackers or pyrotechnic designed to either simply emit a whistle-like sound or explode afterwards upon being ignited;
(10) Butterfly — Butterfly-shaped pyrotechnic device designed to lift above ground while providing light;
While the deafening noise of thousands or millions of firecrackers that mark the start of New Year make it to be one of the most memorable and exciting celebration in the Philippines, the national Department of Health responsibly educates the Filipino people thru infomercials about safe use of firecrackers and the dangerous consequences of careless handling of these explosives. This has been necessary because of the considerable number of firecracker related injuries that happen every year during this holiday. Hundreds or thousands of people, mostly kids, are rushed to the hospital every year because of injuries related to mishandling of these explosives.
Overall, the New Year's celebration in the Philippines is one would so hate to miss. With the way our lives have been so hectic, it gives us a rare opportunity to be with our family, enjoy abundance of great food that represent wishes of abundance of blessings and prosperity for everybody, and to enjoy a once in a year display of colourful firecrackers and sparklers that superstitiously aim to collectively invite good fortune and drive away evil spirits.
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