It's that month of the year again! That month where Santa Claus would drop down by the chimney to present some gifts to those little boys and girls who were nice and not naughty. The month where everybody gets busy just to buy a gift and give it to their loved ones. But how do we celebrate Christmas here in our country? Read on and celebrate this jolly season with us!
Christmas here in the Philippines starts with the usual houses you always see adorned with Christmas lights. It's in that moment you realize that Christmas is getting near. Usually, some households would place some Christmas decorations as early as October.
Sround late November, you'll be surprised when some children go in front of your gate singing Christmas carols. It's up to you if you have spare change or are in the mood for some Christmas spirit! If you do, then you have to give a couple of pesos to the kids. Also, you would hear Christmas songs (I might guess 65% from singer Jose Mari Chan) all over the radio. That would basically remind you that Christmas is warming up.
Being a student in a public or private school (or one who works in an office), one could never get away with the so-called “Christmas Party”. This signals the end of school days on December and opens the door for Christmas vacation. If you are a parent, you would find yourself asking your children about their gifts for their “secret Santas”. On day one, it has to be something red. On day two, something soft. On day three, something sweet. And the list goes on and on and on. This also goes for the people who work at offices or in some other establishments.
The moment Christmas vacation arrives, one has to stretch out his arms and get ready for a very long vacation. One must never forget to buy hamon de bola (because I think without this, Noche Buena is meaningless) as early as possible.
Everybody actually gets busy during Christmas. Banks are always full, people queue up in the cashier booths, children would grab a lot of toys and gifts because their papa or mama would come home from overseas... such are scenes that you would see at the height of Christmas vacation. Simbang gabi, a nine-day Roman Catholic ritual novena performed in the Philippines, starts nine days before Christmas. It ends on December 24 and most Filipinos would bravely wake up by four in the morning just to attend the nine-day mass. What do they get from that? A grateful wish for better health and a better life in the coming new year.
But the most cherished moment during Christmas is on... of course, Christmas Day. Well actually, the thrill starts on the morning of December 24, Christmas Eve. People get busy baking and cooking food in preparation for the Noche Buena! A lot of Filipinos would attend Misa de Gallo or Midnight Mass. This also marks the end and the final mass of simbang gabi (loosely translated as night mass). Filipinos after that would cater to their pangs of hunger and thirst for good food like puto bumbong (a purple-colored rice pastry, seasoned with grated--coconut and brown sugar), tsokolate (a hot chocolate drink), bibingka (flour and egg cakes cooked with coals on top and bottom), and salabat, or ginger tea, which are sold to the faithful by vendors outside the different churches and parishes here in the Philippines.
Come 12:00 AM of December 25, children would wake up and see their gifts under the big Christmas tree. Almost a lot of the children would receive toys from the make-believe Santa Claus, while parents and other siblings would lovingly hug and greet each other "Merry Christmas". It's indeed the most wonderful time of the year.
After ransacking Santa Claus' gifts, the whole family would proceed to the dining table and enjoy their Noche Buena. One would always find lechon, bibingka, hamon de bola, quezo de bola, spaghetti, fruits, pancit, lumpia, and rice on the table. Desserts sometimes include ice cream, coffee, pastries, and cakes. The adults would indulge in wine, liquor or beer to celebrate the essence of Christmas.
In conclusion, spending a Christmas in the Philippines with a Filipino family is awesome. But also, we should never forget that it's not all about the activities that we do during the lengthy time of the season. It's also that time we should remember the one who is the reason why we are celebrating Christmas. :-)
Happy holidays, everyone!
This is a post submitted by Community Member ethermoon.