December 31, which is the last day of the year, is not a regular holiday in the Philippines. Instead, it is another special non-working day, as stipulated in Proclamation No. 90 amending Proclamation No. 42.
This holiday also recognizes New Year’s Eve, which is one of the largest global celebrations as it marks the last day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. This year, it falls on a Sunday, and some businesses may choose to follow Sunday opening hours.
Why celebrate the Last Day of the Year?
December 31 is the 365th day of the year (366th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. It is known by a variety of names such as: Saint Sylvester’s Day, New Year’s Eve or Old Year’s Day/Night, as the following day is New Year’s Day. It is the last day of the year; the following day is January 1, the first day of the following year.
In the Philippines, this holiday is commonly referred to as the Bisperas ng Bagong Taon (“New Year’s Eve” in Tagalog). There are a lot of traditions that Filipinos follow in the belief of ushering in a prosperous New Year. Many of these customs you may recognize as bearing Chinese influence.
How Filipinos celebrate New Year’s Eve
Filipinos celebrate the New Year’s Eve by preparing distinctive dishes, though they are not as extravagant as the Christmas Eve Noche Buena banquet. However, in some rich households, another roasted pig (lechon) may be prepared after having already served one during Christmas.
Furthermore, iconic dishes such as pancit (noodles) symbolize longevity, while eggs represent new beginnings. Meanwhile, traditional treats crafted from malagkit, like biko, are enjoyed to ensure lasting good fortune.
Part of the fun in getting ready for New Year’s Eve is to come up with twelve (12) round fruits, each to signify a month of the year. Ideally, you should have twelve fruits for New Year’s, like oranges and watermelon. It’s not easy, so about half of them might not be round, such as mangoes and apples. But one fruit that Filipinos always have for the New Year is imported ubas, which are round and purple grapes.
Most importantly, Filipinos go all out with the noise on New Year’s eve. Filipino firecrackers, known as “paputok,” exhibit a diverse array of forms and carry captivating monikers such as judas belt (a string of firecrackers), super lolo (“grandfather”), kwitis (derived from the Spanish word “cohetes” meaning rocket), bawang (“garlic”), and airwolf, to name a few.
In conclusion, December 31, 2023, is not a regular holiday in the Philippines but is observed as a special non-working day to mark New Year’s Eve. This day holds significance as it is the last day of the year, celebrated with various traditions and customs.
It’s a time when Filipinos eagerly welcome the coming year with optimism and joy, embracing both their cultural heritage and global traditions.
See the list of the remaining official regular and special non-working holidays in the Philippines in 2023 below:
- Bonifacio Day – November 27, 2023 (Monday nearest November 30)
- Christmas Day – December 25, 2023 (Monday)
Special non-working day:
- Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary – December 8, 2023 (Friday)
- Rizal Day – December 30, 2023 (Saturday)