Food For Luck: What You Should Have In Your New Year's Eve Spread
When it comes to cooking up a feast for New Year's Eve, it's not just about delicious dishes and Instagram-worthy presentations for Filipinos. Different kinds of food have acquired all sorts of symbolism and meanings over the years, some being culturally relevant, while others are just plain strange and hilarious. Regardless of their background stories, Filipinos include these dishes and items in their New Year's Eve dinner spread as part of tradition, thoroughly enjoying their first meal of the year as a precursor to many, many more to come in 2018.
Pancit, or any kind of noodle
A concept inherited from the Chinese, having noodles on your table represents longevity. On birthdays, they symbolize long life, while on New Year's Eve, noodles are all about symbolizing a steady, good year ahead with no violent breaks or interruptions.
Malagkit, a.k.a. biko or sticky rice
Forget the carbs and sugar for just a moment; serving sticky rice (which usually comes in the form of biko), is one way of telling the world you wish for your loved ones to "stick together" throughout the year and remain a close-knit family. It's invites good fortune to stick around during the year ahead.
No fish or chicken dishes
These meats are avoided on New Year's Eve for the reason that fish and chicken scavenge or scrounge for food. Filipinos definitely don't want that for themselves, be it for literal food, finances, or anything equally important.
12 round fruits
12 unique fruits (no repetitions allowed!) cannot be missing in action in your New Year's Eve spread. Each fruit represents one month of the year, and their roundness is supposed to symbolize prosperity and continuity. Funnily, some Filipinos adhere to this tradition so much that they've resorted to displaying plastic fruit on their tables just to be able to complete the fruit headcount of 12. But don't worry, imperfectly round fruits like mango and apple are allowed!
Still on the topic of fruits, grapes for some reason have a special place in Filipino New Year's Eve food traditions. The trick is not just to display them on your table; you must eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight, for reasons unknown to many. Some suggest that it's simply to invite sweetness into your life and ward off any sort of bitterness that might come your way. (Hopefully the bunch of grapes you pick up isn't sour!)
Lechon, and other pork dishes
Throughout history, pork dishes have signified abundance and wealth. Having it as part of your feast supposedly wards off times of strife and invites a steady flow of overall positivity and having "more than enough" all year round. It's the perfect excuse to ask for that third serving of lechon.
In the midst of all the (let's face it) overindulging during the holidays, don't forget to include a bowl of healthy greens in your New Year's Eve menu. Why? Veggies, specifically green and leafy ones, look like money and therefore, might just attract wealth into your life in the next year. Spinach, kale, romaine lettuce are great ideas.
Beans (or lentils)
Beans are dry and flaky before cooked, but become plump and juicy when ready to eat. To some Filipinos, this symbolizes growing wealth. It's a superstition that won't hurt for you to follow. Besides, who doesn't want to double or even triple their finances in 2018 if all it takes is a spoonful of beans?
You can't serve just any other cake, though; it must be round. Just like the 12 round fruits on your table (which hopefully are all real), the circular shape represents continuity. But since cake is a dessert, it carries the the added symbolism of only happy, sweet things to come in the year ahead. It's also meant to show that things have gone full circle and that no loose ends are left unresolved — fresh beginnings only, please.