BELIEVE IT OR NOT, I spent my first New Year’s Eve in the Philippines last 2007. Growing up, I had no recollection of playing with “lusis” or even seeing a “Sinturon Ni Hudas” tear itself apart, much less a “Goodbye, Philippines.” Nevertheless, I grew up with a phobia for anything that explodes (Long story. Next time, I’ll tell), so imagine my fright as I witnessed my fist ever New Year’s Eve in my adult life outside Saudi soil. To say that I was freaked out, would be an understatement.
But you all know what it’s like to spend New Year’s in the Philippines, or in any other country for that matter. This entry is about how I spend the New Year’s in this side of the world.
1. It’s QUIET. If most Asians share the belief that making loud noises on New Year’s Eve will ward off evil spirits/bad luck, then they might think that Saudi Arabia is just welcoming all of them in on New Year’s night. But no, it’s just that it’s not celebrated here. Plain and simple. Saudi Arabia is set with the Hijra calendar and they celebrate their version of the New Year during the Eid — so we expect noise and festivities by then. But on December 31st, expect a standstill–and the people you’ll find walking around the neighborhood, nonchalant.
Though from personal experience, my brother and I would collect “mga takip ng kaldero” (cooking pan covers) minutes before midnight and bang them all for at least a minute after the clock strikes twelve (along with a high jump, in a superstitious hope of growing taller in the coming year). We do it locked in our rooms of course — and this ladies and gentlemen, is our version of a “noisy” New Year.
2. No fireworks. No exploding items. Apart from Saudi Arabia not practicing New Year’s like the rest of the world does (except China maybe), traditions known to us such as igniting a “pla-pla” or setting off “kwitis” is strictly prohibited. Heck, I don’t think they even sell those here. Nevertheless, witnessing a fireworks display would be nice (they do some during Eid). What me and my family used to do would be to turn on CNN and watch the fireworks display from different parts of the world on TV. Kumusta naman diba? Yep, that’s New Year’s in KSA for me!
3. We eat. We have round things. We throw coins. Any New Year’s tradition that we can do within the confines of our house is fine, as long as it’s quiet and nothing has to explode (which is really quite remote if you think about it). Food is so abundant here that we can easily get our hands on any round-shaped fruit in the market. In my family, we’d have our aunts, uncles and their families over at our place (sometimes theirs) and just be together when the new year begins (taking photos with the round fruits before eating them). One fun thing my relatives also got to teach me about Filipino New Year’s tradition while growing up was the throwing of coins in different parts of the house so as to invite good fortune in the family. However, this year, it looks like the collection of halalas is scarce. I mean, we hardly get our hands on any anymore…does that mean we might end up penniless this year? I hope not. 😛
4. Roam the city. Go out of town. For other OFWs who may not have the luxury of having relatives here with them, they would usually opt to be out in the town, surrounding themselves with friends, or even strangers, just so they can veer away from the lonesome feeling in their housing units–especially in this cold weather. For the all-boys crew, weekend trips to nearby cities like Jeddah and AlKhobar are at a high too, just so they can do something “new” for the New Year. Meanwhile, most ladies opt to divert themselves to the mayhem of the Sale season inside shopping malls during this time of the year. The rationale: new year=new clothes/bags/shoes. 😉
So there you have it. It’s not much, but that’s the usually scenario whether we like it or not. We make do with what we can here in Riyadh. It may not be no Times Square event or a Sydney Opera House fireworks display, nevertheless, a new year IS a new year — and how we welcome it doesn’t come up to par to how we eventually make the most of it.
I say do away with the whole resolutions bit — especially if it has proven ineffective for you in the past couple of years. Just DO what you have to do — do whatever needs to be done to make life worth living. And I’m sure, you will not regret it.
May you all have a bountiful New Year!