Filipinos are generally fun-loving and occasion-celebrating people. Couple this with their value for family and friendships and you will get a quality celebration of life. Filipinos take advantage of holidays, long weekends and other occasions just to have an excuse to visit their family members and other relatives and to spend time with them.
Filipinos look forward to any declared holiday just to be able to do some activities with loved ones. Travels, reunions, and simply hanging-out at home with the family are the most famous activities of a Filipino during holidays. Even the solemnest occasion calls for a celebration. All saint’s day and holy weeks are marked with a whole day activities for a family.
However, if there is a holiday or a season that the Filipinos are a lot more excited and hyped about is the Christmas season. Anyone who was able to spend the Christmas in the Philippines would say the Filipinos celebrate the season like nobody else in the world. The Christmas season in the Philippines is full of fun, food, and family affairs! It is a very unique celebration of the Christmas season.
First of all, the Christmas season in the Philippines is unique in terms of celebration because of the length of the celebration. Filipinos start decorating their homes with Christmas ornaments in September. The ‘ber’ in the month name signals the start of the Christmas season. And no, Filipinos do not remove the Christmas décor after December 25. Most Filipinos remove theirs in February- after the Chinese New Year in the Philippines.
Adding to the uniqueness of the Christmas season in the Philippines is the long Christmas break for schools and a lot of businesses. The Filipinos are normally given two weeks of Christmas vacation beginning some days before Christmas and ends a couple of days after the New Year. Filipinos troop to their hometowns and maximize the two weeks of vacation to be with their family members and reunite with friends from their hometowns.
Christmas cards and Christmas greetings are also circulated and passed around starting mid-September. The greeting card section in the stores is stacked with a lot of Christmas cards in anticipation for the early greeters. Early greeters are welcome for the Filipinos.
A lot of people who sing Christmas carols from one house to another also start very early. It is not surprising that even the children learned that disturbing a house can be forgiven if they use the Christmas caroling tool. Christmas carols are also started to be heard in radios and on the television during the month of September and then played heavily as December 25 approaches.
The Christmas season in the Philippines also becomes unique with the prevalence of godparents who are most famous during Christmas. It is a Filipino tradition that godparents are supposed to be the Santa Clauses of the Filipino Christmas. The godchildren are in fact taught to expect and anticipate the gifts coming from the godparents. In fact, in the rural areas, it is a custom that on Christmas day, the children will dress up and visit the houses of their godparents. Godparents are in turn expected to give something whether a present or money.
Moreover, the Christmas season in the Philippines is marked with food… and lots of food! Filipinos in fact invented its own Christmas food. If cheese, wine, and turkey are the Christmas food in the West, Filipinos have puto bumbong (rice in purple yam) and bibingka (resembles the pancake). These foods are available as street foods (and even as gourmet foods) starting September.
Noche Buena or the Christmas Eve dinner is what most Filipinos prepare for. This is the dinner at exactly 12 midnight of December 25. Filipinos eat with their families and loved ones during this time and then proceed to the giving and opening of the gifts. Eating is non stop as the whole day of the 25th is still dedicated to eating and more eating.
Filipinos also have never ending Christmas parties. They have Christmas parties in schools, work, department at work, organizations, church, mother’s family side, father’s family side, village, and a lot more Christmas parties. A Filipino attends an average of four Christmas parties. Some even have ten parties!
This time also is a reflective time for the Filipinos who are also very religious. Simbang gabi or mass at dawn is a nine day affair that is usually celebrated at 4 in the morning. Filipinos who are Roman Catholics troop to the different churches to attend the mass at dawn. This ends on December 24. Filipinos believe that if they complete the nine days, they will receive a lot of blessings come the next year.
The Filipino culture of generosity is also the most vivid during the Christmas season. Christmas bonuses and the 13th month pay are usually allotted for the buying of gifts and contribution to the Christmas parties. Gifts abound during this season and for the Filipinos, Christmas is not only for children. Two people who are just civil with each other receive gifts from one another because of the spirit of Christmas.
Filipinos are also known to be givers during this season even with the people that they do not personally know. Donations to charitable institutions and organization abound at this time. In fact, some Filipinos call this season, ‘The time of the year to share and give back’. Big businesses in fact create giving opportunities for people who want to share this season.
It is also a Filipino culture to reconcile on Christmas season. If a person does something to a particular person, this is the best moment to apologize and be forgiven. Almost all of those who used the Christmas season for reconciliation were successful in their mission.
Filipinos who migrated overseas would always choose to celebrate the Christmas in the Philippines should they have the resources to do so. There is no Christmas celebration that can ever replace the good feeling, warmth, generosity, and togetherness of the Christmas season in the Philippines.