10 Reasons Christmas is More Fun in the Philippines
Holidays in December
Christmas Day, together with the New Year’s Eve, is one of the most celebrated holidays all over the world. Observed on December 25th, Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ. It has become a religious and cultural event celebrated by billions, Christians and non-Christians alike. Different countries with various Christmas customs and traditions would commonly observe this season with Christmas themes, gatherings, gift giving, feasts, church services, caroling and Christmas trees.
Yet despite the worldwide celebration, Filipinos that reside outside the country either immigrants or those temporarily working overseas would especially be nostalgic and homesick during the holidays in December. Why? What makes the Philippines’ Christmas more fun and worth coming home to?
Let me give you 10 reasons how “Pinoy” Christmas is more fun in the Philippines:
1. We have the longest Christmas season festivity.
Christmas season in the Philippines starts from the month of September also known as the start of the “ber” months; September, October, November and December. Filipinos are naturally fun loving people and the longer the celebration just means one thing, more time to have fun!
2. Filipinos are music minded and we especially love singing Christmas songs.
Perhaps it’s our genetic design or it may already be a part of the Philippines’ culture but we are a bunch that appreciates music so much that karaoke bars and videoke machines become a regular stress reliever. We have globally acclaimed talents and we have regular concerts in the shower with “tabo and timba”. Bottom line, music may not exactly love each of us but we absolutely love music. And we don’t usually pass up on the chance to sing and/or appreciate beautiful music during Christmas season.
It’s the time of the year that we can take pleasure in musical special events and concerts; Christmas songs that have been lovingly rehearsed for weeks and months, both in English and Filipino. We also get to see our children’s meaningful Christmas presentations at school, memories we would always cherish until they grow older.
Listen to this lovely Christmas Medley.
Also, do not marvel if we already have children belting out “Pasko na naman, O kay tulin ng araw…” early September. Kids here are very enthusiastic carolers and start early with their Christmas wishes in mind. Christmas, after all, is a season for children.
This is one of the most popular Filipino Christmas Carols.
Heads up, the broken-hearted ones can be extra emotional and touchy during this season when they hear “Pasko na, Sinta ko” being played on the radio. My advice is to temporarily stay away. Consider yourself warned.
Christmas Theme Song of the Broken Hearted
3. We create beautiful and unique Christmas decors.
It is during this time that we let our creativity soar to produce the most stunning and unique pieces of decorations, sometimes by materials that can only be found in the Philippines. We typically start early, decorating our houses and public places like malls, schools, government offices starting September.
There are specific parks especially decorated with lights and decors just this time of the year to cater to families and friends who would like to bond and enjoy the dancing lights, encouraging family togetherness and making the bonding more meaningful.
Typically, it is already a part of the Philippine traditions to facilitate décor competitions before December 25th to recognize and award special prizes to individuals with extraordinary creations.
4. “Monito, Monita”, a more current Filipino Christmas gift-giving tradition.
Aside from Christmas “Aguinaldo”, our Spanish-inherited tradition of gift giving where children in particular receives wrapped gifts or envelopes with money, we now have a more current and fun way of giving gifts called “Monito, Monita”.
Weeks before Christmas Day, individuals in groups, usually a class block, a team at work or even a whole department, would draw names to know who their secret “Monito” or “Monita” is. After picking out the names, descriptions would then be given on what type of gifts they can secretly give their “Monito” or “Monita”. It could be something long, wide, smelly… really, anything goes and people can get really creative.
The final exchange gift during the Christmas party could then depend on the “Monito” or “Monita’s” wish list in consideration of the agreed upon value of the gift. Not a bad idea for finding more exciting ways of making sure everybody gets a present by Christmas Day if you ask me.
5. The Philippine Tradition of “Simbang Gabi” for Catholics.
80% of the population professes Catholicism and it is a part of the Christmas customs of the Catholics to carry out the “Simbang Gabi”, a devotional nine-day of masses that starts from December 16th until 24th, with the time ranging from 3AM to 5AM. Expect that Catholics to take it to heart to complete the “Simbang Gabi” from the first day to the last. The last day is on the Christmas Eve, which is called “Misa de Gallo”.
During the “Simbang Gabi” season, Filipino native delicacies can be enjoyed outside the churches every after the mass. Delicacies like suman, bibingka and puto bumbong, to mention a few.
6. It’s time for our most awaited 13th Month Pay.
In the Philippines, Christmas holiday is equivalent to 13th month pay. This is one of the best, if not the best, things of being employed during this season. All employers must pay their employees a 13th month pay as required by the Presidential Decree No. 851 (otherwise known as Thirteenth Month Pay Law) not later than December 24th annually. It is equivalent to the employee’s salary divided by the number of (days) months employed. Of course, the 13th month pay only means one thing; Yep, Christmas shopping!
7. Christmas Sales & Discounted items are everywhere.
This is the time of the year when common Filipinos jokingly refer to themselves as rich. And when everybody’s rich, there definitely will be Christmas sales and discounted items everywhere.
During this season, big-time mall owners in coordination with the government would usually adjust the mall hours and facilitate mall-wide sales, with the malls open until midnight. There will be a plethora of “street tianges” legally, and sometimes illegally, situated in different areas easily accessible to buyers.
And then there’s the “superstars” of sales, the famous Divisoria and Baclaran Market Districts. If you would like to get great bargains of anything from clothes to toys to school supplies to kitchen tools, these two districts are must-go-to during Christmas season.
8. Christmas holiday is a season of family fun and gatherings.
Filipinos are family-oriented and love reunions and gatherings. This is a wonderful season when you’ll find gatherings and parties almost everywhere - school, church, malls, at work, in the streets – as Christmas day approaches. During Christmas Eve, all of the family members are expected to come home, even those working abroad, to join the Christmas reunion and dinner also known as “Noche Buena”. This is one of the Spanish traditions still being practiced by majority of the population and one of the most meaningful events of the year.
9. Amazing Filipino cooks prepare the Christmas feasts with a heart.
Filipino cooks are amazing and puts their heart out whenever they prepare for a special occasion. Christmas feasts are no different. It’s a special time of the year where you’ll find a variety of food which evolved from and influenced by different international cuisines – Malay, Spanish, Chinese, Italian and American – all in one table. One of the best advantages brought about by our rich culture and history.
In a Filipino Christmas table, the most popular finds are the “lechon” (roasted pig) and “hamon” (Christmas ham). You’ll also find spaghetti, different types of paellas, crispy pata, pansit, spring rolls, fruit salad, “queso de bola” (Spanish ball of cheese), fried chicken, pandesal and more.
There’s also the tradition of coming up with 12 circular fruits for the table to celebrate the New Year. This usually includes grapes, oranges, watermelon… any round fruit. The circular shape signifies luck for the next 12 months of the coming year.
Share your Thoughts!
What's your favorite Filipino Christmas food?
10. We celebrate the New Year’s Eve with a big BANG!
Christmas Day and New Year’s Day will always be celebrated together during the months-long holiday. And weeks leading to the New Year’s Day, consider it typical to see firecracker and firework vendors in designated populated areas all over the country.
To celebrate the New Year’s Eve, aside from the beautiful fireworks, Filipinos would get themselves the noisiest and loudest firecrackers and horns. Interestingly, the firecrackers go by the weirdest names; “super lolo” (grandfather), a string of firecrackers called Judas belt, “Goodbye Philippines” and “kwitis” (rocket) to name a few. It’s a part of the superstitious beliefs – through the influence of our Chinese ancestors (as generally known) - that these fireworks, firecrackers and anything that can produce noise can be used to shoo away bad luck of the incoming year.
The Philippines is an archipelago and Filipinos are commonly divided by class, social status, politics, dialects, beliefs, religion and hundreds of other things. The Christmas season is one of the few things that can uphold unity; a reminder that everyone, despite the differences, if we choose to, can be a part of a whole to celebrate something beautiful and meaningful in unison.