After a heavy topic in November, I would like to shift to something lighter for this “most wonderful time of the year” as the song says – Christmas. It is much looked forward to by everyone as we have the longest Christmas celebration in the world – September 1 to January 6! What images or wonderful memories come to your mind this season? To many of us, Christmas means a lot of things.
GIFTS! Individuals, corporations, government, churches, schools, etc. – everybody is involved in preparing and giving, soliciting and receiving gifts and maybe bonuses! Kris Kringle, monito-monita, white elephant exchange gift, and raffles are some devices practiced to get into the spirit of Christmas giving. Godparents in our sponsor-saturated special events (baptisms, dedications, weddings) feel obligated to give when they see their numerous inaanaks at this time. The thirteenth month salary and savings go to these gift-giving splurges as malls also go full blast for their “sales” to make their biggest earnings for the year.
FOOD! We Filipinos use every occasion to gather around food, but especially so during the Christmas season. Puto bumbong and bibingka, Queso de bola and hamon, macaroni and fruit salad, ube haleya, abundance of imported round fruits and nuts (apples, oranges, grapes, chestnuts), these are especially associated with Christmas feasts. With so many parties this whole month, diet is not in anyone’s vocabulary this time of the year.
Christmas Carols! With the Filipinos love for and our world-renowned giftedness in music, Jose Mari Chan’s original Christmas songs fill the air once September comes. His family-oriented and feel-good messages coupled with soothing melodies make him an icon not only for his love songs but especially his Christmas carols. And even when we do not have snow nor sleigh, popular American Christmas carols are sung by enterprising children who want to earn a few pesos while people are in good spirits. Christmas also provides a good opportunity for fund-raising activity for many groups through caroling.
Christmas Decorations! We excel in doing lavish decorations that attract people wanting to catch the Christmas spirit. Aside from the lavish decors in different malls where people flock to, we also have many places throughout the country to enjoy with the family. We have the COD animated display in Cubao; the beautiful light displays along Ayala Avenue and Ayala Triangle in Makati; the Magical Field of Lights in Nuvali, Sta. Rosa Laguna; the famous world landmarks in lights in Tangub City in Misamis Occidental; the Iwag festival of lights in Pototan Iloilo; the giant lantern festival and competition in San Fernando Pampanga to name a few. Provincial towns also hold contests for barangay street decorations using indigenous materials. Our beautiful capiz-made Parol even gets exported to other countries by our countrymen who are scattered all over the globe, to have a piece of the Philippine Christmas with them.
Family Reunions! No matter where one is, Filipinos make every effort to go home to celebrate Noche Buena on Christmas Eve or Media Noche on New Year’s Eve with the family or clan. These get togethers are occasions to meet with relatives and catch up on each other’s lives, celebrate with singing and talent presentations, give gifts to one another especially to the children, and gorge on food and revelry. Those who cannot make it home get to connect through video calls and join in wistfully. Christmas is one joyous occasion, aside from weddings, that highlights how family is central to our values!
Simbang Gabi, which is actually Dawn Mass/Service for the religious faithful starting December 15. I remember doing this with my mother and grandmother when I was growing up. There is something about waking up early and going out in the cool dawn air that makes this tradition special. There is an element of sacrifice as well as (hopefully) sincere devotion that somehow brings one’s focus on the reason for the season – God becoming man! That little sacrifice for the spirit gets rewarded with the bibingka/puto bumbong and hot chocolate breakfast that fills one’s stomach ready for the day!
Truly, our fun-loving nature as Filipinos is shown most in our longest Christmas commemoration, our love of family, food, and music, our lavish decorations and celebrations that all converge together and have created an unparraleled Christmas celeberation. Whether rich or poor, we get into the spirit of Christmas in the Philippines like no other.
But is it possible to enjoy all these but not feel joy, to be full of revelry and feasting but feel empty inside, to celebrate Christmas with all its trappings and traditions without Christ? What is the essence of Christmas? (To Be Continued).
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