Christmas in the Philippines may well be the longest celebration in the world as it literally starts during September (commonly referred to as the first of the “ber”/brr months) and ends sometime in January or even February. But don’t worry, it doesn’t mean we stop work then!
With Christmas only a few days from now, everyone is feeling the holiday spirit. And why wouldn’t you be? It is hard not to feel it when you see Christmas lights and decorations everywhere, break up parties in the park and shopping malls crawling with people.
So how are your staff celebrating Christmas in the Philippines? There are so many ways people celebrate it and it usually differs from one place to another, but here are the traditional ways:
As early as November, most kids already start their nightly door-to-door rounds to sing Christmas carols to earn coins or candy. This is a typical scenario and they are either given money or candy by home-owners or told to come back another day.
Dancing/Singing and all other Christmas presentations for office parties
Filipinos are known as happy and talented people and this is even more apparent during this time of the year as it is very common to see officemates practicing either a song, a dance or any other type of presentation for their Christmas parties. During these presentations, company positions rarely matter as even supervisors and managers join in to sing and dance their hearts out.
Get-togethers, Reunions and Christmas Parties
For most Filipinos, especially those who either work abroad or live abroad, Christmas is the best time to come home for family get-togethers and reunions. Whenever this happens, they are like the literal Santa Claus of every family gathering – bringing imported presents from a big “Pasalubong” box for everyone to feast on! Many other parties are also organized, from house parties, office parties and even street parties.
Attending the Misa de Gallo or the novena dawn masses for 16 days starting on December 16 all the way to Christmas eve. When most people would wake up for work at 6am, for a good 16 days, they would wake up as early as 3am to be able to attend mass at 4am. In bigger churches with many patrons, different traditional delicacies called “kakanin” are sold for people to eat after the mass is celebrated. Most people strive to attend all 16 days of the dawn masses due to the belief that whatever they wished for on the first day will get granted. From a religious standpoint, this practice means the preparation for the coming of the baby Jesus.
This is one of those unwritten rules in the minds of every other Filipino – that Christmas is the time for gift-giving. As little children, aside from getting gifts from their family, they are used to having godparents called “ninangs and ninongs” who would always give them a gift on Christmas and so as adults, the practice still remains in their minds but with the intent of giving back or paying it forward. Gift-giving also extends to friends, coworkers and even acquaintances.
Christmas Dinner or Noche Buena
The Noche Buena or the Christmas Dinner is a traditional family dinner on Christmas eve. Special food like roasted pig or “lechon” is usually served or ham and other types of special family recipes only reserved for Christmas or for special occasions. It is also common to see fruit salad and many other sweet desserts served on this day.
For any type of big celebration, if Filipinos can use fireworks, they’ll find an excuse to and Christmas, next to New Year, is the second biggest excuse to use fireworks. Although the use of fireworks have decreased through the years, Christmas eve never passes without the sound of firecrackers here and there or a few ones lighting up the Christmas sky.
Christmas is never boring in the Philippines and anyone who’s ever been in the Philippines knows Pinoy-style Christmas is a memorable experience definitely worth sharing!