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Should old acquaintance be forgot? And some lasting new year traditions

By MONIQUE TODA, The Philippine STAR Published Dec 26, 2021 5:00 am

You know that the “holidaze” season is coming to an end when all these recaps from social media start popping up providing your highlighted and most liked posts of the year. Even digital music streaming services like Spotify do this by summarizing your favorite music, artists and genres.

Well, there is no better time to reflect on the past 365 days and look forward to what lies ahead than the approaching year-end.

My personal ritual is watching the final sunset by the beach on the last day of the year. I have been doing this for over 20 years already and it is so cathartic. As I watch the sun disappear into the sea, I let go of the year that was.

It’s so symbolic yet personal, and I can’t wait to say goodbye to all the grief the year has brought in, but also say thanks for all the blessings of 2021.

Traditions have always been part of welcoming the beginning of a new year. Many have the hopes for good luck, a better life, and manifesting their dreams and desires.

But what does each custom really mean? Here’s a little history lesson on some popular practices. Hopefully, it will make us more aware and give more meaning to popping that bubbly and starting the year right.

Eating 12 grapes

Do you eat 12 grapes at midnight? It’s a fun way to celebrate when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve.

With its roots in Spain and called uvas de la suerte, the grapes symbolizing good luck for each month, are eaten quickly one by one, seconds before the clock strikes 12.

My family does this and it is quite enjoyable. It precedes all the kissing and greeting each other “Happy New Year!”

Kissing at midnight

Not allowed during COVID, or reserved for a select group of antigen-safe family and friends, the kiss at midnight can be traced to ancient Rome’s Saturnalia celebration. From what I gather, this wild festival included a lot of drinking, dancing and kisses galore.

German and English folklore ended up romanticizing the midnight kiss, saying that if one started the year with a kiss, it would improve your love life. So kiss away — but do it with caution. It might not be romantic, but for your safety, you might instead want to go for an elbow bump.

Auld lang syne

Auld Lang Syne is not really very Pinoy but there are those who sing this tune aloud during their New Year’s Eve celebrations and I am totally into it. The song is based on a poem by Scottish poet Robert Burns from 1788. In English, it means “for the sake of old times” and bids farewell to the past year.

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot” in the lyrics is a rhetorical question. Of course, we will never forget old and dear friends and our memories of them. The end of the year is a good time to do that.

Make some noise

The pandemonium New Year’s Eve brings is agitating at times. It also frightens my precious dogs. All the loud noise and celebration is thought to drive away evil spirits and clear the way for the year ahead.

Before noisemakers, party whistles, horns and firecrackers, people were said to bang pots and pans to achieve the same effect. Imagine hearing that. Despite the danger of injuries and gory photos of mutilated fingers in the news, paputok is a tradition that won’t go away.

Popping the bubbly

Champagne was used in the Christian Eucharist ritual as early as A.D. 946. After which, it was included in religious events then spread to coronations and other soirees for the elite. As the purchasing power of the middle class rose, the producers of champagne linked the bubbly to festive occasions and proclaimed it the ultimate New Year’s Eve celebratory drink.

Midnight mass

When I was younger, we used to attend the 10 p.m. Mass, which was perfect since it ended and gave us time to go home and have our media noche feast. There are earlier Masses to attend, of course. Zoom Masses came about as a result of the pandemic.

Last year, we had our Mass via Zoom, outdoors and under the stars. It was amazing. Like the Simbang Gabi and Misa de Gallo, the New Year’s Eve midnight Mass is included in our many Catholic traditions.

Media noche

New Year’s Eve, Pinoy-style, has a midnight meal, or media noche (midnight in Spanish), as a highlight of the celebration.

A lavish table of Filipino, American and Spanish fare is served and is believed to bring in abundance. Heritage recipes take centerstage and are eagerly awaited by family members.

What you eat or do at this time is supposed to indicate how the coming year will go. Influenced by Chinese culture, round fruits also adorn the table as they are believed to bring prosperity.

Polka dots, coins, underwear, and other superstitions

The Chinese culture has permeated some of the Pinoy New Year’s traditions like filling pockets with coins, and even placing them on tabletops and drawers on New Year’s Eve.

Wallets are also not left empty. Outfits or articles of clothing in polka dots are lucky. Some go as far as using polka-dot underwear. All to usher in a year of plenty.

New year’s resolutions

This practice started with ancient Babylonians, who made promises to the gods for good favor and to begin the year right. Whether or not one keeps, or even remembers, his/ her resolutions is a different matter. But the intention is there.

Starting with a goal in mind is a good way to kick off a new year. All these positive wishes and intentions released are hopefully not forgotten.

I’m sure that due to the pandemic, there are resolutions for better mental health, wellbeing, more compassion and empathy. Aside from the resolutions I am about to make, I have a simple wish and prayer: 2022, please be kind.