Are you itching to go home this Christmas?
Whether you are in a picturesque Christmas setting up in the Northern hemisphere or sun bathing in the beautiful beaches down under, nothing (I personally believe) beats Christmas in the Philippines.
I know there is white snow or white sand somewhere else but I bet you can have the most wonderful time of the year on our beautiful islands.
Here are 12 reasons:
1. Longest Christmas celebration
I do not know of any country that starts playing yuletide music by September except for us. The moment August bows out and September steps in, we hear radio music trickling of merry yuletide songs. It kind of sets the mood “ah the “ber” months are here,” and suddenly we look forward to December – and even starts a countdown.
Although, we formally start the Christmas season by December 16 in time for the 9 nights of attending mass called “Simbang Gabi” or 9 pre-dawn mass called “Misa de Gallo.”
The celebration then ends, not on the 26th but on the Feast of the Three Kings in January.
2. Awesome Christmas displays
Sometime around October or after All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day, Philippine streets and houses light up with Christmas lights – lots and lots of them. Affluent neighbourhoods and business districts would usually have a grand display of lights and lanterns.
Families dress their home with Christmas decors including Christmas trees, Santa Clauses, lanterns, fairy lights and of course the nativity displays or “Belen.”
Grand nativity displays are often found in big houses, malls and establishments.
Seeing a Christmas lantern or “parol” lighting the houses and the streets is one symbol that Christmas is near. It could be a simple lantern made of paper or plastic or an extravagant one with capiz shells and blinking lights.
In the olden days, the parol is used to guide parishioner’s way to Church for the midnight Christmas mass.
3. Christmas Carols
You know Christmas is just around the corner the moment you hear children’s voices singing in front of your house and rattling their handmade tambourines.
Filipinos ready their coins to hand the carollers no matter if they finished the song or stopped somewhere in the middle of it, all for good holiday cheer.
Or you can be a grouch and not hand any –to which the children will sing aloud how “barat” you are.
4. Long Christmas holidays
Schools have at least 2 weeks of Christmas vacation. On the other hand, professionals and employees, have only the 24th and 25th but somehow it seem to stretch as long as after the New Year’s day.
May be it is because of the numerous Christmas parties to attend to, it just sometimes feel like you are going to work to attend the party later at night.
5. Christmas Family Reunions
And then there is the family reunion – whether you are someone who dreads it or loves it, Filipinos usually time their reunions around Christmas time.
And you know what happens in family gatherings – there is a lot of food, endless “chickahan” (talking) aand… videoke (or karaoke or just singing with the microphone on)!
6. Exchange Gifts
Every party has one “exchange gift,” “monito, monita” or “secret Santa” whatever name you use it just means you end up having at least one gift for Christmas.
Or as many gifts as the number of days you started the exchange gift or the number of parties you attended.
This would also mean a need to visit the mall almost every day for the whole December. Luckily, every mall around would always have a Christmas sale. In addition, in the week leading to Christmas, malls accommodate shoppers until midnight, yay!
7. Christmas Bonus and 13th Month Pay
Most employees receive their 13th month pay and Christmas bonus so it really lifts up the mood for the season and people seem to be more generous.
Christmas parties would also usually have games and raffle draws which add to the already light and festive mood.
8. Christmas Masses
Philippines being 90 per cent Christian and 80 per cent of that population Catholic put faith front and centre of the celebrations.
The decors and gifts all have a symbolic beginning from the first Christmas.
Filipino elders instil and insist among the younger generation the tradition of attending the “Simbang Gabi” or “Misa de Gallo” for 9 straight nights/dawn.
On Christmas eve, Filipinos gather in Churches to celebrate mass and watch a Christmas re-enactment of the first Christmas.
9. Puto Bungbong and Bibingka
Puto bungbong and Bibingka are types of rice cakes usually peddled outside of churches around the start of Simbang Gabi.
These rice cakes are cooked right in the stalls so you can just smell its delicious scent wafting through the cool night air.
10. Noche Buena and Medya Noche
Christmas eve in the country will not be complete without the Noche Buena or the Christmas Eve dinner.
We usually serve mouth watering dishes like lechong baboy (roasted pork) or lechong manok (roasted chicken), caldereta, barbeque, leche flan (crème caramel), buko salad (salad made of young coconut strings) or fruit salad – and almost any other festive Filipino dish for the family to share on Christmas eve.
We also have Medya Noche for New Years eve, which is still part of the Christmas celebrations.
11. Cool but not too cold (or hot)
Christmas in the Philippines is usually cool and windy – it is around the only time in the country that is not too wet or too dry.
It is cool enough to go out and have mass and not too hot so as not to enjoy the delicious Christmas food on the streets or at home.
12. And that oh so warm fuzzy feels
Christmas just seem a magical time for friends and family to see each other again and may be patch things up or just enjoy each other’s company.
Is it too obvious? Christmas is to me, the most wonderful time of the year. It just feels like everybody – no matter how jaded or cynic – sets this time of the year to be jolly.
The Filipino Christmas setting is just perfect as it is not too traditional, not too commercial but just spot on.
Maybe it is the traditions we have as Catholics or just our nature. It could be a mixture of both or I am just a bit biased. No matter what it is, the Filipino Christmas experience would always be unique and special.
I have been to other parts of the world, like may be most of you. Christmas to me would always be a time for coming home and being with the people you love dearly.
Wherever you are spending your holidays, have a blessed and meaningful one this year!
Special thanks to Joxcam for the main image.