By Alito L. Malinao
MANILA, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- To a Filipino middle-class family, the New Year celebration is not complete without 12 kinds of round- shaped fruits on the dining table which the family members partake after the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31.
This is a Chinese tradition in welcoming the New Year which the Filipinos have adopted.
The Chinese, however, need to have only eight round fruits on the table because the number 8 signifies good luck.
For Filipinos the belief is that the 12 round fruits represent 12 months of the year and assure good fortune to the family members all year round.
As a tropical country, it is not difficult in the Philippines to find round-shaped fruits such as oranges, watermelons, mangoes, pineapples, guavas, rhambutans, jackfruits, pomelos and peaches.
In the Chinese tradition, the pineapple is an important fruit for the New Year celebration because the "eyes" of the fruit symbolize success in one's career and more opportunities in the coming year. In the Philippines, however, the pineapple is not given such importance. Filipinos do not place pineapples outside doors or on windowsills as some traditional Chinese families do.
But most Filipino families have adopted the Chinese custom of presenting red envelopes with new crisp peso (the Philippine currency) bills to children. Usually the children and even adults are asked to hold coins of various denominations and jump at the stroke of midnight, another Chinese tradition to usher in a prosperous new year.
The belief is that when children jump at the stroke of midnight, they will grow up a few inches in the coming year.
Many Filipinos also believe that having money in their pockets and wallets at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve will ensure a prosperous coming year; the crispier and bigger the better.
The Filipinos, like the Chinese, also believe that what you do at the beginning of the year will have an effect on your life at least until the end of the year.
The most popular New Year's Eve tradition around the world is display of fireworks.
In the Chinese tradition, firecrackers or fireworks supposedly ward off misfortune and drive away evil spirits. But Filipinos tend to overdo the firecrackers and hundreds of children and adults suffer injuries or even deaths as a result of the wanton use of firecrackers.
The local government of Davao City in the southern Philippines has adopted a total ban on firecrackers because of the harm that the firecrackers have caused during New Year's celebration.
There were those who suggested that the firecracker ban should be imposed nationwide but many Filipinos, particularly in Metro Manila, want to welcome the New Year with a "bang" literally.
Some gun-owners, including the police, have the penchant of firing into the air as part of welcoming the New Year. The bullets sometimes ricochet and hit innocent bystanders.
Every year, the Department of Health launches a nationwide campaign warning the people of the danger of exploding firecrackers, especially the bigger ones. But these exhortations are often ignored by the public. Two days before the New Year, authorities reported that some 200 have already been injured by firecrackers.
Some Filipinos now hit metal pots, pans and basins or blow their car horns just before midnight of Dec. 31 to make as much noise as possible in welcoming the new year.
As in other Southeast Asian nations, the large Chinese community in the Philippines has been exerting cultural influence on the Filipino way of life long before the coming of the Spanish and American colonizers.