Celebrating the New Year’s has been different for our Filipino family here in America for years. Every time I talk to my sister back home in the Philippines her expectations of New Year’s is different from how we celebrate. A typical Filipino New Year’s was my sister’s benchmark of traditions. My sister asked if we had fireworks, a big ‘handa‘ (feast with family), held grapes and coins in our hands at the stroke of midnight (a superstitious tradition which invites good fortune) and made sure we were complete as a family on the first day of the New Year.
Except for the ‘grapes and coins’ I told my sister the rest of the Filipino traditions were not happening for us. It was impossible and illegal to have fireworks on the east coast in the middle of winter. We did not live near our larger, extended family, so the 4 of us only had each other. It bothered my sister we were not following our childhood traditions. I assured her it was more important we welcomed the New Year renewed and optimistic, with hope for better things to come.
That said I put together a spirited pitcher of Sangria and some spicy, savory ‘tapas’ to ring in 2016 here at home. Thanks to the Spanish colonial influence in our cuisine and culture, Filipinos love sangria. Concocting a tall pitcher of fruity sangria has always been fun.
I found helpful sangria recipes and information in the book “Field Guide to Cocktails” by Rob Chirico (Quirk Books). ‘Sangria’ in Spanish means ‘bleeding’ and so the cocktail was named for its red color. It is a refreshing drink year round. The author suggested preparing a pitcher of the drink early in the day for large parties. A good quality red wine is recommended for this drink. I used a 2009 Merlot which was a gift from friends.
To match the fruity flavors of this robust crimson cocktail, I put together ‘tapas’. ‘Tapas’ are appetizers that originated from Spain. ‘Tapas’ comes from the root word ‘tapar’ (Spanish for ‘to cover’). In this case, one sliced ingredient covers the other, till neat stacks of hors d’oeurvres were created. The beauty of tapas is that you can go as imaginative as your ingredients allow.
I had fun stacking up these easy Cheese-Chorizo Tapas — in a plethora of flavors — sweet plantain slices, spicy Spanish Chorizos, sharp-tasting aged Cheddar cheese, and topped with savory olives. The best part of it all was that it only took me 20 minutes to prepare both — mix the Sangria, as well as stack up the tapas.
2015 had been an amazing year of travels, new things, friendships and learning. We even had the opportunity to write a history book “Statesman and Survivor Elpidio Quirino, 6th President of the Philippines” for our family. And now, as I stirred the sangria filled with the silky red wine with a berry-like aroma, I watched the colorful fruit slices dance around. I welcomed thoughts about the New Year with gratitude from the past and optimism for the months ahead.
Often, an optimistic attitude invites an influx of positive energy in us. I always look to optimism as the “yeast” in the bread of our lives. With optimism, we rise and our spirits soar and bloom. No matter where we are in the world, or how we choose to ring in the New Year, the best tradition we can choose is to revive our spirits and cultivate optimism around us.
Happy New Year, dear friends and family! May 2016 bring you an abundance of good things, new experiences and much happiness.