Once August ends and the calendar starts hitting those “ber” months, malls begin to blast a repetitive cycle of Christmas jingles (with lyrics we pretty much have engraved in our hearts) through their speakers. That’s basically how Christmas in the Philippines operates. In a nutshell, that is.
My country, the Philippines, is widely known for its incredibly long yuletide celebrations that kick off as early as September and last until, at most, the first week of January. This just proves that Christmas (or as we call it in Filipino, Pasko) is not only a major holiday but also, and perhaps more significantly, a highly regarded, inherently sacred tradition that has somehow smoothly burrowed itself under the sun-kissed skin of Filipino culture. Many would argue that the widespread impact of Christmas is primarily due to the Philippines being one of the two predominantly Christian countries in Asia. While it certainly is true that most people here are either Christian or Catholic, I also believe that the Filipino Christmas “spirit”, so to speak, is rooted far more deeply than the confines of religion.
For this post, I don’t want to go all technical on you guys! I mean, there are so many different traditions and ways to celebrate Christmas here. From the church masses held in evenings (or Simbang Gabi) to parlor games such as Monito/Monita (Kris Kringle) to the traditional family feast on Christmas Eve that we call Noche Buena. As much as I’d love to write about them and explain every single one, that would consume way too much time (and quite possibly, your attention span) and I kind of want to focus on one aspect I can’t help but love.
The pre-Christmas buzz throughout September to the end of November is intoxicating. It definitely sets up quite the momentum for the most anticipated season of the year. However, that’s nothing compared to the full-blown Christmas enthusiasm once December finally arrives. By then, the seasonal cheer is so strongly felt in the air that, I swear, the excitement is nearly palpable – in the same way peppermint tickles your taste buds in every sip of Starbucks’s exclusively yuletide Peppermint Mocha latte (my favorite holiday drink, by the way), in the same way the cool December breeze leaves your arms dotted with goose bumps. Definitely, the atmosphere throughout this season is inexplicably, exceedingly magical.
And that same magic can be felt right in your bones and straight through your heart. You can see it in the way people’s smiles light up even more upon seeing rows and rows of houses ornamented with equally bright Christmas lights. You can smell it in the air as parents fuss around in their respective kitchens, preparing food and desserts for the Noche Buena. You can hear it in the voice of every Filipino as they greet each other, extending the same level of warmth to friends and strangers alike. Most of all, you can feel it – like really feel it – in the presence of your loved ones.
You see, Christmas is, above everything else, a family celebration. It brings families, relatives and loved ones together. Or at least, that’s my opinion. But I digress. If there is anything our culture revolves around, it’s family.
Growing up, I was always told that being Filipino means not only having a warm, sunny disposition but also prioritizing family. Being Filipino means putting family first. This was taught to me both within and outside the classroom. And this is best epitomized during the Christmas season.
Short author bio:
Shealea is a 20-year-old self-confessed book pusher from the Philippines with embarrassingly mediocre time management skills (and to think she runs a blog!). She likes talking about books, binge watching many a television series, and referring to herself in third person. She does not, however, enjoy writing about herself.
For more of Shealea’s shenanigans, visit her natural habitat: thatbookshelfbitch.wordpress.com