I haven’t celebrated Christmas outside the Philippines (yet). Not that I didn’t have a chance to; in fact, I was recently asked to spend it in Thailand with someone special to me, but I had to say no.
There really is nothing like celebrating it in my country.
There are a number of reasons why I love Christmas in the Philippines. Here are just some of them.
Enjoying the Abundance of Food
For Filipinos, any kind of celebration involves a huge amount of food, and it’s the same with Christmas. Even the poorest of the poor would try hard to come up with some kind of Christmas fare to share with the family, even if it’s just rice and noodles.
The middle-class and the rich, of course, would have a range of dishes on their table, from the ever-present lechon (roasted pig) to a number of meat-based dishes.
Back when I was still a pescatarian (seafood diet only), I had a hard time during the holidays. My family would always include one seafood dish, of course, but everything else would be meat.
Hearing the Sweet Sounds of Children Caroling
Once December rolls, packs of children would make their rounds in the neighborhood singing Christmas carols. The tune and accuracy of the lyrics leave much to be desired, and sometimes they seem to be on fast-forward mode to cover more houses before they’re called back by their parents, but in general, I love hearing them outside my house.
I keep a lot of one-peso coins around to give to the kids, and usually, when they receive it, they would just go through their thank-you spiel. Yesterday, however, as I was giving one kid their one peso, his friend excitedly asked him, “Wow, is it 5 pesos?” He was so disappointed when he saw the coin that I was tempted to give them more.
Seeing Festive Christmas Lights
When I was a child, we would start decorating our house with Christmas lights and other decors as early as November. It was a tradition that we kept through the years. It really doesn’t feel Christmas until you see Christmas trees, nativity scenes, and Christmas lights all around you.
When I moved to my own house, my mother bought me a small tree to decorate, too, but it didn’t last 10 minutes. My two cats, attracted by the shiny balls, toppled my tree in no time at all.
Elsewhere in the cities, though, festive lights are everywhere. I can’t wait to be home to my family and see our house all dolled up for the season!
Celebrating Christmas the Traditional Way
In our family, we celebrate Christmas in the Philippines the traditional way. We go to Midnight Mass then eat the noche buena when the clock strikes 12.
Instead of opening our gifts that night, though, we reserve it for the annual family reunion on New Year’s Day, when various relatives would come to our house. There would be a program (speeches from selected heads of the family, singing, dancing, games) and at the end, I would usually hand out the gifts.
While it’s true that family get-togethers are very awkward for me (lots of relatives would always ask when I am getting married, or would tell me that I shouldn’t wait too long to have kids since I’m not getting any younger), I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
While I still can, I’m definitely spending Christmas in the Philippines with my family! Happy holidays, everybody!
Photo credit: Roslyn under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.