Immediately after Christmas, we Filipinos prepare for a grand celebration of the coming New Year. We shop for firecrackers and noise makers like toy trumpets called “torotot” which come in all colours, shapes and sizes. These items can be bought in almost all the flea markets and malls in the Philippines. Places like Bocaue and Santa Maria in the province of Bulacan are the most popular areas for the firecracker industry in the country. The people from these parts produce the most impressive aerial fireworks displays. A yearly Pyrotechnic Olympic event is held in the city of Manila. Representatives from all over the world showcase aerial fireworks displays for an excited crowd. Thousands of people flock to the Luneta Park or Manila Bay side to watch this magnificent presentation. Filipinos welcome the coming year with a big bang! New Year’s Eve or in Tagalog “Bisperas ng Bagong Taon,” is the noisiest time the year. In the morning of Dec. 31, one can hear random bursts of fireworks set by anxious and overexcited neighbours. The Filipinos have a unique way of celebrating the New Year as it brings a lot of superstitions which are strictly observed. We make it a point to spend the last days of year by cleaning the whole house so that there will be no obstructions for “good luck” to come in to the home. Filipinos do not sweep the floor or clean house at the beginning of the year as it is believed that it is like “sweeping” away good fortune. Households are busy preparing for the midnight meal we call “Media Noche” which means “midnight” in Spanish. Pansit is cooked as the noodles signify “long life”. Delicacies like “biko” and “sapin-sapin” made from glutinous or sticky rice are prepared because our ancestors believed that this will make good fortune “stick around” during the year. Fish and chicken are not served in the midnight meal because it is said that these animals scrounge for food. Chicken are said to live a “hand-to-mouth” existence which will not bring good vibes for the coming year. The dining table should have a basket or bowl of 12 different types of round fruits. Each fruit signify a month of the year. Grapes, oranges, pomelo (similar to a grapefruit), cantaloupes, watermelons and other round fruits signify “coins” or money for prosperity. Filipinos wear clothes with polka-dots which also symbolize prosperity. Some dress in colourful shirts in red, gold or blue as this will encourage happiness. The New Year is welcomed with open arms by opening all the doors and windows in the home. This is believed to be a way of dispelling the “shadows lurking” in our homes. All the lights have to be switched on for a brighter and better life in the coming year. During the countdown to 12 midnight, children jump up and down so they will grow taller. Pockets are filled with coins and are jangled to attract wealth. Some coins are also placed in various parts of the home. Loud music is played to scare away “bad spirits” (adopted from the Chinese). When midnight strikes, fireworks rule the skies! It is just like the 4th of July celebrations in the States. Pots and pans are clanged while cars and trucks rev up their engines, honk their horns and drag empty cans to make as much noise as possible. Children blow their toy trumpets. They also stamp their feet on small firecrackers called “watusi” which crackle into a little spark and dance on the ground when rubbed against the rough cement. The noise from all these is almost deafening as it rises to a climax for almost half an hour. Then the whole family gather together for a thanksgiving midnight meal. Spending our first New Year in Canada in 2011 was definitely a big change. My daughter asked me, “Mommy, is it really New Year’s Eve? Why is it so quiet?” I only smiled and told her that we were in a different place now where people celebrate it in another way.