18 days from today, it’ll be Christmas day and aside form putting up our tree and setting up some Christmas décor around our house, I have not made any other preparations yet. Considering that in September, I spent so much time customizing a Christmas calendar for myself, it isn’t cool to think that it seems like I will still end up being one of those moms who are trying to beat the Christmas rush or worse, I will end up doing the last minute shopping. I am looking at the calendar that I made, and it’s all empty, I did not even had the time to push my pen and write a plan or my to do list!
Even the song White Christmas is undoubtedly one of the popular Christmas songs wherein it says “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. Just like the ones I used to know. Where the treetops glisten, and children listen To hear sleigh bells in the snow….” I am still not a fan of “White Christmas.” This year will be my 6th year in a country where Christmas is not just a dream but also a reality… yet, I still prefer the fun and excitement of celebrating Christmas in my tropical home country…
In the Philippines, we start Christmas celebration early, particularly the commercial aspect, you will see decorations going up in department stores and other locations as soon as the calendar hits the –ber months. I guess this is why Philippines earned the distinction of celebrating the world’s longest Christmas season. The months ending in ber are considered Christmas months and the holiday season lasts until the Feast of the Epiphany or Three Kings (Tatlong Hari), which already falls in January. Long celebration, right?
Who would not miss this kind of celebration, even without looking at the calendar, you will know that Christmas is on! By just looking around, you’ll find signs that Santa Claus is on his way to the town! In the Philippines, there are so many practices and traditions which gives you the signal that it’s time for me to prepare my Christmas gift list, I call them, “Christmas signs,” and these signs are also the same reasons why I still “secretly” wish to celebrate “Pasko” (Tagalog translation for Christmas) in my home country…
Due to the fact that there is a big Filipino community in Winnipeg, we actually start to see some of these Christmas signs here in ‘Peg, however, there is nothing like spending Christmas at “home” with your whole family and the friends that you grew up with… In the Philippines Christmas is definitely on when —
- Radio stations starts to air Christmas carols and malls start to play them all day.
- Malls and other establishments are decorated with Christmas theme.
- Street vendors start selling lanterns of different designs and sizes.
- The lavish and colorful light displays of tall buildings streets and homes are up.
- The hanging lanterns in each home that happens to be the grade school students’ project.
- When you got stuck in traffic, street carolers will start to knock on your car window.
- The huge Christmas tree lighting in Cubao, Quezon City (for sure this time, there are other places who has their own huge tree as well)
- Christmas parties in school, workplace and organization are occupying your calendar.
- Establishments giving out shirts and/or calendars with their company name printed in it.
- The smell of the traditional holiday delicacies – bibingka (rice flour and egg-based cake, cooked using coal burners above and under) and putò bumbóng (a purple, sticky rice delicacy steamed in bamboo tubes, buttered then sprinkled with brown sugar and shredded dried coconut meat) that you can buy and eat from food stalls right outside the church
- Employers giving out Christmas bonus, 13th month pay and Christmas giveaways to its employees.
These and among many other Filipino traditions makes Christmas celebration in the Philippines not just the longest but also the merriest celebration. But what truly makes it special and unique is making this celebration all about being with our families and love ones and remembering even those people whom we haven’t seen for a while… add the spirit of love, kindness and forgiveness that is more evident during this season.
Hay… yes, I miss home… well, even if we are not in our home country to celebrate this occasion, for as long as I’ll be with my Big 4 (my husband and my 3 children) and I have Skype and Viber in my tablet, our White Christmas here in Winnipeg will still be “merry and bright.”
Are you also celebrating Christmas far from “home”? What are your family traditions that you will truly miss during this occasion?