Filipino New Year Food Superstitions

Filipinos prepare for the New Year's Eve feast more elaborately than they do the Christmas Eve meal. And while the Christmas Eve meal is steeped in family traditions, the New Year's Eve meal is characterized by cultural superstitions and customs that have passed from one generation to the next.

So if you are planning a trip to the Philippines during the holidays, be ready to endure loud and prolonged noises from anywhere-you-look fireworks, wear a polka dot dress, and enjoy these foods, as they will bring you happiness, abundance, and health in the year to come.

  • 01 of 05

    Round Fruits at Midnight

    Round Fruit

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    Also a Hispanic tradition, eating grapes or small round fruits is an inherited custom from the colonization era. One version calls for twelve round grapes, while another version requires twelve different round fruits. Whichever version is followed, the fruits have to be on the dining table at midnight. With the grapes, each and every person must eat all twelve, but with the whole big fruits, each person simply takes a bite from each.

    The round fruits represent prosperity as the shape resembles the gold and silver coins of olden days. This superstition is also tied to the belief that wearing a polka-dotted shirt or dress on New Year's Eve will lead to a prosperous new year.

  • 02 of 05

    No Chicken or Fish, Sir!

    Roast Chicken
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    An anecdote explains this superstition best. There were two women, house helpers it appeared, who were arguing about what to buy and cook for New Year’s Eve. One was about to get some chicken but the other objected and told her:

    Naku huwag, ayaw ni Sir n’yan kasi buong darating na taon na isang kahig, isang tuka.”

    Literally translated this phrase means:

    “Oh, no, Sir wouldn’t like that because that means it’ll be scratch and peck [a figure of speech for living in poverty] throughout the coming year.”

    It is the chicken's way of eating that is associated with hardship and poverty, as the bird has to scratch and peck all year around. Although tasty and delicious, chicken is not served during New Year's Eve.

    As with chicken, fish is considered an animal that has to scrounge for food, so it never appears during this celebration's menu. Pig might be one of the proteins of choice in many households.

  • 03 of 05

    Long Noodles for a Long and Healthy Life

    Chinese stir-fried noodles
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    Noodles are not indigenous to Filipino cuisine ​but were introduced by Chinese traders. The Filipinos adopted noodles into their regional cuisines along with the superstitions surrounding them. Eating noodles for longevity is essentially a Chinese belief observed in birthday celebrations and in Lunar New Year celebrations. The practice has found its way into the Filipinos' New Year food superstitions.

    Pancit is the dish of choice and each family makes their favorite version.

  • 04 of 05

    Something Sticky for Good Fortune to Stick

    Sticky rice cakes
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    There are two versions of this superstition and both are anchored on the sticky characteristic of a dish. In the first version, the stickiness represents a closely knit family. In the second version, the stickiness is like a magnet that attracts good fortune that stays with the person.

    Either way, glutinous rice dishes are always present during the New Year's celebration.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Fill the Cupboards to Keep Them Full All Year

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    This tradition is something that families observe to prevent hunger and food scarcity in the household during the year to come. Containers of basic food items like rice, salt, and sugar are filled to the brim before midnight to ensure that they stay that way in the coming year. Likewise, Filipinos make sure their water containers are filled so there won't be any shortage of water during the year to come.