Happy New Year!
The festive occasion is over and we’re to face a new beginning but not forgetting to look over at our pasts to pick up a lesson or two. Indeed, things go that way. Old ways to welcome our fresh start. Old beliefs and customs guide the celebration of the new year. And they are likely to stay that way…no matter how strange they are.
Manibagong Bagong Taon!
Here in the Philippines, New Year’s (literally translated as “Bagong Taon“) is celebrated during December 31st with a midnight mass and family dinner followed by loud noises mostly from fireworks. It’s pretty much like Christmas, except for the noise as Christmas is observed in a more solemn manner.
New Year’s Day is the most festive holiday in the Philippines for it does not discriminate among religions. It is celebrated even by the Filipino Chinese though not as extravagant.
A general belief for the New Year’s is that more is always better. It’s all about the hopes for a lucky and bountiful year ahead.
Filipinos have some nice (and a bit strange) ways of expressing this belief. For instance, households furnish their dining table with round fruits for hopes of wealth for round is the shape of money. Twelve round fruits of different variety are collected and is believed to bring in a bountiful year.
A traditional food is palitaw. Made of rice, a palitaw is placed in boiling water and allowed to float. They are then placed on a pan and sprinkled with grated coconut, sugar and sesame seeds.
At twelve o’clock, coins are tossed and sounded to call forth good luck and doors are opened to let welcome it in.
Kids are made to jump coinciding with the New Year countdown and during the height of the firework’s noise. This is for the hope that they grow taller. But it’s quite tricky. One has to jump up to a higher elevation, otherwise the attempt would mean the opposite.
Noises from fireworks are believed to drive away bad spirits just like the Chinese. Yet banging of pots and pans and blowing car horns are also done as safer methods of merrymaking. But don’t forget your torotot!
Shinnen Akemashite Omedetou!
Before 1873, the date of the Japanese New Year was based on the Chinese lunisolar calendar and celebrated at the beginning of spring. However, five years after the Meiji Restoration, Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar. It is considered by most Japanese to be one of the most important annual festivals and has been celebrated for centuries with its own unique customs.
Japanese people eat a special selection of dishes during the New Year celebration called osechi-ryōri. Many of these dishes are sweet, sour, or dried, so they can keep without refrigeration—the culinary traditions date to a time before households had refrigerators, when most stores closed for the holidays. Today, sashimi and sushi are often eaten, as well as non-Japanese foods.
The end of December and the beginning of January are the busiest times for the Japanese post offices. The Japanese have a custom of sending New Year’s Day postcards to their friends and relatives. It is similar to the Western custom of sending Christmas cards. Their original purpose was to give your faraway friends and relatives tidings of yourself and your immediate family.
Japanese people send these postcards so that they arrive on the 1st of January. The post office guarantees to deliver the greeting postcards by the first of January if they are posted within a time limit, from mid-December to near the end of the month and are marked with the word nengajo. In order to deliver these cards on time, the post office usually hires students part-time to help deliver the letters.
On New Year’s Day, Japanese people have a custom of giving money to children, known as otoshidama. It is handed out in small decorated envelopes called ‘pochibukuro,’ similar to Goshugi bukuro or Chinese red envelopes and to the Scottish handsel.
Another custom is creating rice cakes. Boiled sticky rice is put into a wooden shallow bucket-like container and patted with water by one person while another person hits it with a large wooden hammer. By mashing the rice, it gets sticky and forms a sticky white dumpling. This is made before New Year’s Day and eaten during the beginning of January.
Celebrating the new year in Japan also means paying special attention to the “first” time something is done in the new year. Hatsuhinode is the first sunrise of the year. Before sunrise on January 1, people often drive to the coast or climb a mountain so that they can see the first sunrise of the new year. Hatsumōde is the first trip to a shrine or temple. Many people visit a shrine after midnight on December 31 or sometime during the day on January 1. If the weather is good, people often dress up or wear kimono. Other “firsts” that are marked as special events include shigoto-hajime (the first work of the new year), keiko-hajime (the first practice of the new year), hatsugama, the first tea ceremony of the new year, and the hatsu-uri, (the first shopping sale of the new year).
Japanese New Year: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_New_Year
Filipino New Year: http://www.123newyear.com/newyear-customs/new-year-customs-philippines.html