Thelonius Monk first penned his now jazz classic ‘Round Midnight in 1944. It has proven to have been one of the most recorded jazz standards written by a Jazz Musician. It is thought that Monk originally composed the song sometime in 1940 or 1941. However, Harry Colomby claims that Monk may have written an early version around 1936 (at the age of 19) with the title ”Grand Finale”. I am pretty sure that Monk was not thinking of New Year’s Eve when he first wrote this song. However just looking at the title and seeing what the early version was supposedly called may make one think again about Monk’s inspiration for the song.

New Year’s Eve is a festive time in the Philippines, call it a grand finale to the festivities, ushering out the old and welcoming the new. There are a lot of traditions that Filipinos follow alongside this popular holiday in the belief of ushering in a prosperous New Year. Many of these customs one may recognize as showing a predominantly Chinese influence.

During this time special food is prepared, but not as lavish as the Noche Buena feast on Christmas Eve, although some families might be wealthy enough to prepare another roasted suckling pig after serving one on Christmas, or perhaps to match the same kind of food offering served during Christmas Eve.

To be served for sure are: pancit of any variance (noodles) to signify long life, as are eggs signifying new life. Traditional delicacies made from glutinous or sticky rice like biko are prepared that is so good fortune will stick around throughout the year. Fish and chicken are not served as these animals scrounge for food, and it is widely believed that what one consumes during the beginning of the new year would highly affect the rest of the year hence most people don’t want to have to scrounge for food in the coming year.

Part of the fun in getting ready for New Year’s Eve is to come up with twelve round fruits, each to signify a month of the year. Ideally, there should be twelve different fruits such as grapes, oranges, clementines, cantaloupe, pomelo, watermelon, and the like. It’s a tough challenge, so half the fruits likely end up being non-circular like mangoes and apples. The fruit that Filipinos most associate with the celebration of the new year and will rarely be without is imported grapes, purple grapes that are very round.

The same way Americans enjoy Fourth of July fireworks, Filipinos go all out with the noise on New Year’s eve. Filipino made firecrackers come in so many shapes and go by very interesting names — Judas’ belt (a string of firecrackers), Super Lolo (“grandfather”), Kuwitis (from the Spanish word cohetes meaning rocket), Bauwang (“garlic”), the list continues along with the Filipino’s penchant for naming things from all sorts of things one sees in the world around. Children love scratching the dancing firecracker watusi (a red colored firecracker that when thrown dances sporadically while sparking) against concrete sidewalks and cemented surfaces. I myself enjoyed many New Years celebrations as a child terrorizing the neighbor’s cat with these watusis.

All sorts of noise are made, pots and pans are banged to scare away evil spirits. Cars and trucks’ engines are revved and horns are tooted to cause as much noise as possible. Empty cans are dragged all around and whistles are blown, all to welcome the New year and ward off any evil spirits that may cause bad luck left over from the previous year.

Another popular belief is that before the clock strikes midnight to herald in the new year, all doors of a household must be left wide open to allow good luck to enter. This includes cupboards, drawers, cabinets and windows.

Some Filipinos who cling to these mostly Chinese superstitions try to dress in polka-dots because the roundness signifies prosperity. Pockets are filled with round coins, which are jangled to attract wealth. Coins are also left on top of tables and in drawers.

At the exact moment of midnight, some Filipino children are told by their parents to jump as high as they can because they believe this will make them taller.

Whatever condition your wallet is in when the New Year arrives, so it will be the rest of the year. Make sure to put in the money your received on Christmas. The same goes for the neatness of your home.

Filipinos spend the last days of the year vigorously cleaning everything, especially of dust. However, on the first day of the new year, you are not supposed to do any cleaning. No cleaning on New Year’s Day itself!

One more popular thinking by most elderly Filipinos is not to start the year off by spending money. Frugality on the first day sets the tone for wise money management in the coming year.

Whatever the case may be, New Year’s Eve is one the most celebrated events of the year. The whole world will always be in anticipation of a fresh start, new beginnings and the promise of another year full of wonder and surprises.

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