Once the “-ber months” kick in, Filipinos are automatically in their best holiday moods. Some are making their own gift list, while others are already busy planning Christmas lunches, dinners, and parties with their families, friends, colleagues, and loved ones.
While majority are already busy with Christmas preparations, our fellow Filipinos working overseas are busy too – making a living in order to provide for their families, so they can live a modest and comfortable life. Given this situation, it’s not surprising to know that hearing a simple Christmas carol is enough to make them miss celebrating the Holiday season in the Philippines. Even if other countries celebrate Christmas in a grander way, nothing beats how the Filipinos do it in their own style.
Christmas in the Philippines is one of the most celebrated holidays in the country. As a matter of fact, the country has been recognized worldwide for celebrating the longest Christmas season. It starts as soon as the calendars turn to September 1 and usually ends on the third Sunday of January.
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It is the goal of every Filipino to complete the night mass or better known as Simbang Gabi. This usually starts on December 16 until 24. According to legends, a person who can complete the nine-day novena can make a wish and it will be granted.
Attending the night masses are usually fun because Filipinos opt to go with their families and friends. Afterwards, both young and old look forward to buying local pastries and having breakfast with their loved ones before going to school or work.
It is a well-known fact that Filipinos are big eaters. And something that they look forward to during the Christmas season are the native delicacies that are only available during the holidays such as puto bumbong and bibingka.
These two famous native delicacies are well-loved by both the young and of course, the young at heart.
Parties Here, There, and Everywhere
Aside from eating, Filipinos are also fond of partying. In areas like Metro Manila, both offices and schools organize Christmas parties as a way of celebrating the season.
Office parties are made more interesting by incorporating a theme every year – from punk rock, to fairyland. It gives an opportunity for both employees and bosses to loosen up, let their hair down for a moment, and just enjoy each other’s company.
Sometimes, offices also include entertainment in their program. The employees would be divided by groups and they will present either a song, skit, or dance number. Winners will be given prizes. Moreover, there are some companies that give credit for their hardworking people by awarding them with the most-coveted “Best Employee of the Year” prize.
Meanwhile, school parties are just as fun. Students prepare a special number for their families and teachers. There are also exchange gifts, donation to charity, and games.
Midnight Mall Sales and Bazaars
Christmas in the Philippines will not be complete without the shopping mall sales. Once December hits, a lot of malls in the Metro will entice consumers with their sale offerings. And given that Christmas is the season of giving, expect to see a lot of Filipinos inside the malls doing their last-minute shopping for their special someone, including their inaanak (godchildren).
Meanwhile, for those who are looking for something unique and not-so-expensive presents to give to their loved ones, bazaars are all around. These are made up of small stalls or kiosks that sell one-of-a-kind presents and knick-knacks that come in cheap prices. These bazaars also close very late at night, very convenient for employees.
Visit to Santa’s Village
For the children, Christmas won’t be complete without a visit to Santa’s Village. These are usually held in malls wherein children get to have their photos taken with “Santa Claus” and even share their wishes to him in hope that they will come true.
This simple bonding moment, though is not a tradition, creates fun memories for both parents and children.
Another fun activity that happens during the Yuletide season is the Christmas carolling. In the Philippines, children would perform and sing in exchange for a few coins and bills. They would knock on your doors and serenade you with Christmas carols. And if you did not give them any, they will still sing you with a “thank you” song.
The Christmas Eve and Noche Buena Feast
The 24th of December is celebrated by most Filipino families by going to the last of the Simbang Gabi mass and a hearty dinner after. Family members gather during midnight to welcome Christmas Day by exchanging gifts, singing carols, and even playing games.
The usual yuletide fare will not be complete without queso de bola (ball of cheese), Christmas ham, fruit salad, chocolates, and some well-loved Filipino dishes.
Parents also are into the habit of encouraging their children to hang their Christmas stockings for Santa Claus to fill in with gifts. The stockings are usually hanged near the window or door. The next morning, the children will wake up with their socks filled with goodies, presents, and sometimes a note from Santa telling them to continue being good children.
The Christmas Spirit
Last, but certainly not the least, nothing beats the Christmas spirit of the Filipinos. More than the decors and trappings, in the Philippines, the Christmas spirit is more heart-warming. It is the season of remembering the birth of Jesus Christ. It is all about giving not because you want to impress, but to show your loved ones how much you value them. A lot of Filipinos abroad would attest to this. And they can’t help but feel a little homesick once the holidays comes in.
More so, Christmas is about spending the season with your family. Christmas day is usually celebrated traditionally by going to the church and eating out afterwards. Regardless of whether you have an elaborate fair or a simple celebration, what matters is that you get to spend the day together and cherish each wonderful moment.
Christmas celebrations are indeed more fun in the Philippines – traffic jams and shopping rush madness included. It does not come surprising at all why Filipinos staying abroad would love to be with their families during the said season. After all, there is no place like home.