We’re big on traditions especially the things we follow to make life more colorful. Some are handed down from generation to generation and we follow them year after year. Just like preparing for Noche Buena for Christmas, meeting the new year won’t be the same without food. Food is one thing that binds families together, either sharing a simple meal or elaborate dishes/recipes that need hours laboring in front of a hot stove to complete Media Noche. Media Noche simply means midnight in Spanish but it has certainly acquired a different meaning on how we celebrate it.
Attending an evening mass prior to New Year’s Eve is a must for Catholic Filipinos and arranging food on the table before the strike of 12 midnight is another tradition that we observe. We partake of the food after shouting and jumping with joy greeting the new year. Never mind the noise outside, we don’t buy firecrackers anyway (don’t want to waste money on toxic materials that could even trigger accidents if you’re not careful), having the stereo in full volume or watching the countdown on TV is enough. One such traditional thing that I learned from Mom is to complete an array of thirteen round fruits on the table. Some say, twelve is enough to represent prosperity for the next twelve months but we always make it thirteen. And last year, I also lit prosperity candles.
We went marketing this morning, a little early at 5am but when we reached Cainta market, we had a hard time finding a parking space since the slots normally allotted for cars were occupied by lots of stalls and vendors, you guess it, selling round fruits of different kinds. If you have enough money, you could buy almost anything. Wow, and the price - it’s more than double the amount you have to pay on regular days. One Kiwi fruit was selling at P25, a medium-sized watermelon cost almost P100. You have to spend almost a thousand pesos just to complete the thirteen required fruits, if you are on a budget, you can buy one each but how can you do that with the seasonal grapes or longan when they are selling them by the kilo?
Not to be left behind are the sticky sweets you have to order or prepare since having them around on New Year’s Eve assures the family of sticking together through thick and thin. It’s tradition! Bibingka, a glutinous rice cake topped with sweetened coconut cream (latik) is also a must on the table. Here in our place, it’s so easy to buy any kind of native “kakanins” (sweets) as long as you wake up early so you won’t line up for hours. Cainta is known as the Bibingka Capital of the Philippines. One such known establishment where people from all places in Metro Manila troop to is Aling Kika’s. There you will find all sorts of sweets. Aside from bibingka, they also sell coco jam, leche flan, cassava cake, maja blanca, maja mais, sapin-sapin, you name it, they all have them there. So if ever you happen to pass by Cainta, Rizal, drop by Aling Kika’s.
I digress. Aside from the kakanins, most noticeable on the table are pancit bihon or pancit canton, fruit salad or buko salad, cake (obviously my favorite is ube), lumpiang shanghai, embutido, and siomai. I made a kilo of siomai this morning and prepared lumpiang shanghai, ready for frying.
I am planning to make Buko Pandan for a change, instead of the usual fruit salad which we always have every year. I also bought marble potatoes which I am planning to bake to go with the lumpiang shanghai and siomai. Hubby brought home a native chicken from the province and we are thinking of having tinola with green papaya and dahong sili.
I don’t exactly know how this came about but one more thing that I learned from mom is to scatter coins from the door going inside the house at exactly 12am of New Year’s day. I do place coins on every window ledge and open my wallet and coin purse on top of the bed to attract good luck and prosperity. It’s another tradition that I do, after all there is really no harm done by following it, right? It’s just part of the celebration of the New Year. And we do hang grapes near the door. The funny thing is, we often neglect to remove it until after a week and it becomes like raisins :)
Time and again the Department of Health shows pictures of people, mostly children and teenagers who are victims of firecracker accidents and yet, when New year comes, everywhere is a cloud of thick smoke and believe me, there are victims who lose their fingers and limbs because of it. It’s so scary because some of those firecrackers they sell are deadly. They never learn because they say, it’s tradition. But it’s the one thing that I tell hubby and my kids not to do, buying those things which have toxic chemical contents and harmful to one’s health.
And since nobody drinks in the house, except occasional beer and red and white wine, we only use shut glasses to toast the new year. Here’s to a HAPPY, HAPPY 2012. Happy New year to all.