Text & Photo: Kaycie Gayle
The Philippines has been known to have the longest Christmas celebration in the world. Some would be left wondering why is it that long. While others may be thinking that four months is too lengthy, for Filipinos, it’s just an ample time for them to prepare. You would even notice that as the day itself approaches, they become even more excited. When it has arrived, you may even hear them say it has been too fast. If you are wondering why Filipinos enjoy this season this long, here are some reasons why.
Before Christmas: Preparation (September to December 24)
1. Putting on Christmas Decorations
Filipinos put on ‘parol‘ and other Christmas ornaments on their houses. Meanwhile, the community also comes together to string up beautiful lights on the streets. This enables Filipinos to enjoy and immerse their selves on the festive Christmas ‘feel’ during this season. Also, it allows them to display their seasonal decorations longer.
2. Christmas Countdown
As soon as September 16 comes, the official countdown for Christmas also starts. It would begin with 100 days before Christmas until the day itself has finally arrived. This would be typically heard on local TV news programs as if reminding Filipino people that Christmas is on its way and fast approaching.
3. Listening to Christmas songs while sipping coffee at dawn
During the Christmas season, the air in the country becomes cooler especially at dawn to early morning due to ‘Hanging Amihan‘ or Northeast monsoon. Since it is typically hot and humid in the Philippines, Filipinos enjoy this weather and prefer to spend their early morning listening to Christmas songs while sipping coffee before going to work or school. That’s why if you are staying in the country in this season, you may hear Christmas songs from a household in the morning or at any time of the day when they feel like listening to it.
4. Christmas ‘Karoling‘ (caroling)
‘Karoling‘ is also being done by some people during this season. Some children or even adults like to form groups and hopping from one house to another singing and spreading the spirit of the season through songs. These carolers would be happy if you give them something and would even sing another song to thank you for your generosity. Some children may do it to buy candies or to earn money that they can use for Christmas celebration while some clubs or group of friends do ‘karoling’ to raise funds for their organization
5. Buying gifts
Filipinos start buying gifts a couple of weeks before Christmas day. They are buying in advance to have enough time to properly choose the gift they could give to their friends and loved ones. Also, this allows them to find items with good quality sold at a bargain price. Since it is part of Filipino culture to give gifts to their family, friends, godchild, colleagues and even neighbors, Filipinos have to budget properly and spend their Christmas bonus wisely. This way they are able to give gifts to all the people they are hoping to share their generosity with.
6. Christmas food planning and shopping
Part of celebrating Christmas is sharing food. Filipinos and even other cultures see that eating together is one way of bonding. For this reason, Filipinos, particularly mothers, would plan the food they will serve for Christmas. Expecting that their loved ones would come home, they want to serve them good food. Hence, they look for recipes and would start buying canned ingredients in advance while the prices are still low. They may stock up as early as September as prices get higher as Christmas day gets nearer.
7. Meeting old friends and attending reunions
Since Filipinos are naturally sociable, they spend this season meeting their loved ones. When ‘ber’ month kicks in, Filipinos calendar gets jammed with schedules of meeting relatives, past classmates, and colleagues. They meet friends and family even weeks before Christmas and not just celebrate it with them on the day itself. Getting connected with old friends and relatives naturally happens as some are deciding to go back to their hometowns to slow down to reunite and catch up with their loved ones.
8. Cleaning houses thoroughly
A few days before Christmas, Filipinos would declutter, tidy up and clean their homes thoroughly. Filipinos want to make their homes presentable when their family and friends visited their house. They want to create more space to allow visitors to be comfortable moving around and be able to accommodate more people. This gesture of Filipinos genuinely reflects as a part of the nature of being hospitable.
On Christmas Day (December 25)
1. Noche Buena
While ‘Noche Buena’ means Christmas Eve, to Filipinos, this often refers to the meal shared by the family at 12 AM on the 25th of December. Filipinos wait until midnight to eat together with their families. Also, they may give their gifts for each family member at this point to have an intimate activity. Mostly this is spent with the nuclear family only or with the very and dearest to them.
2. Open House
Filipinos would normally open their house on Christmas Day and would be glad to accept visitors ranging from their relatives, neighbors, colleagues, good friends, and even their friend’s friend. They typically invite them to eat and serve the Christmas foods they prepare while chatting about life and events that happened during the time they have not seen one another.
After Christmas (December 26 to January 6)
After Christmas Day, Filipinos don’t remove their festive decors that have been on display right away. Christmas season in the Philippines does not end after the 25th of December. It officially ends on January 6 where the feast for the three kings has been dated. After Christmas Day, Filipinos are actually excited next for the new year’s celebration hence keep their house remains festive looking.
Disclaimer: Filipino’s way of spending Christmas season may vary, however, the activities listed herein are based on the observed practices of typical locals through the years.
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Happy Travels! 💛