The Christmas holiday season in most cultures of the Philippines is a lot like it is in some parts of the United States. I say “some parts” because it’s like the areas where it doesn’t snow in the United States.
It doesn’t snow anywhere in the Philippines, which I consider a good thing. Other things are different as well. I’m sure some cultures in the Philippines will have nothing to do with the season, mostly because their religions conflict with it.
I’ve lived in the Philippines since April of 2006. I’ve celebrated the Christmas holiday season somewhat every year except for 2013, when I was temporarily back in the United States.
In the United States, the holiday season generally starts the day after Thanksgiving Day and ends on New Year’s Day. It varies within certain cultures, of course.
In the Philippines, the holiday season starts on the first day of September. Traditional American Christmas music is heard while shopping and on the radio that early every year. If it’s a “ber” month, people are already looking forward to Christmas.
I’ve never been fond of American Christmas music because most of it reflects the snowy areas of Northern America. I’ve never lived or visited any snowy area of the United States on purpose. The military never sought to station me anywhere with snow during my 20-year career either.
I’ve never had a white Christmas or gone dashing through the snow and I really don’t want to do anything like that anyway.
We don’t have to worry about any snow in the Philippines, but we have to deal with the rain. It tends to rain sporadically throughout the year, including the holiday season.
For me, it’s never cold in the Philippines. Not even in the areas where people says it gets cold, like Baguio City and Tagaytay. I guess I’ll never completely acclimate to Philippine weather. I want the cold, but I rarely get what I want.
As long as it doesn’t rain on Christmas Day, I won’t complain.
I haven’t seen the things in the Philippines that I didn’t see in the United States. Wreaths on the front door, mistletoe, stockings hung in front of chimneys and things like that are as foreign to me as any Filipino. The only place I’ve seen any of those things are on television and at the movies.
Christmas trees and lights are very familiar. There’s usually a small tree in my mother-in-law’s house, which is in my compound. We’ve had a bigger tree in our house on at least four occasions (that I can remember). We’ve had Christmas lights strung up on our front fence for most of the years, but not this year or last year.
I don’t know how it’s done in the United States. I never experienced anyone caroling there.
In the Philippines, caroling is like a business. People will come around, sing and play guitars and expect to get paid for it.
Other people, including my wife, will pay them but I avoid them. I really don’t like Christmas music.
Those who can afford to do so, give. Those who can’t, receive. Some givers receive as well, of course, but things are usually lopsided.
The young godchildren (inaanak means godchild) will go out early on Christmas Day to visit all of their godparents (ninong for men and ninang for women) to get their yearly gifts as cash. Most of my godchildren are either grown or too far away to visit me.
One of the Christmas Eve traditions in many countries is the reading of the poem “The Night Before Christmas“. As far as I know, there isn’t a Filipino version of it. Comedy versions don’t count. Any other Filipino version would be so different from the original as to lose most of its meaning.
I once thought about rewriting it into a localized, yet English version. There’s really no way I could have finished it. I don’t have a poetic bone in my body and besides that, the only Santa Claus my relatives will ever see is me.
Originally published in December of 2016. Updated for 2017 with minor corrections and better readability.
By: RT Cunningham
December 10, 2017
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