Note: Posted on Multiply Sept. 15, 2008, 1:46 PM
First of all, Merry Christmas, Filipinos!
You might be shocked and say, “Hey, it’s only September! SO why greet me with that message?”
Well, you’re right. It IS only September. But then, as Filipinos, when do we REALLY celebrate Christmas eve?
The answer: September to February.
Here is a list of things I think most people are up to during these months:
1. September: Some thoughts about the approaching season. Some maybe are planning as early as now what to give to relatives, friends, cousins and parents. Christmas freaks maybe are putting up Christmas decors around or buying them as early as now. Some (like me) are noticing the change in weather, and as a side effect, thinking of the Christmas season: the weather, the merriment, and the upcoming new year.
2. October: Most of those going to school experience semester breaks. Some also graduate during this month. Change in weather is somewhat prominent, so most people are Christmas-sick. Some people would be thinking of what gifts and presents to give, and what decors to buy. Some may also be shopping as early as this month for Christmas presents, and some malls maybe playing Christmas songs as early as now. And also some (like me) may be setting up their countdown timers now to December 25, and some maybe up to January 1.
3. November: The height of Christmas sickness. After lamenting for the dead for two days (Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, some maybe up to Nov. 3), people are most likely to plan intensively what to do during the Christmas season, considering the number of days left until the official day. Most (or almost all) people during this month are out shopping to buy Christmas-related items. Others are setting up countdown timers. Expect some children caroling (i.e. knocking at your house, then singing Christmas carols, expecting you to give even a cross-eyed, rusty coin in return, or if you are kind enough, maybe some green bills from the United States of America or rainbow-colored bills from Europe with the € sign). Market prices of gift items start to fall down, and malls start to give sales. Stores also starts to sell fireworks during this time.
4. December: The month of merriment. People rush out to malls and flea markets, thus giving meaning to the term “Christmas sales.” People are expected to have done displaying their decors in their houses, including the Christmas lights, which in some parts of this country is utilized as a source of competition of to which house is the most beautiful. Most children are caroling in the streets (some maybe during the day). Consequently, most uncles and aunts go “missing” whenever they sense their godchild’s presence. Also, most wealthy families go to the temperate countries during this time, either to buy expensive gadgets and items there (shopping spree) or to spend the entire occasion there. In the Philippines, the “Simbang Gabi” (literally translated as “Midnight Mass”, ignoring the fact that it is done at 4 am in the morning) is going on starting from Dec. 16 to Dec. 24 (a total of 9 days), with the belief that if you complete the 9 masses, anything you wish will be granted. During Dec. 24, families are expected to go to mass, then eat together at 12 midnight in an event called the “Noche Buena,” somewhat an event celebrated in order to recognize that Jesus is born at last. After the Noche Buena, most people chat with their families or watch the television for “left-over” channels, or if you have nothing to do, others sleep. After the event, people are again expected to be active, this time in preparation for the New Year. During this time also, people flock to famous firework centers (e.g. Bulacan) in order to buy fireworks that cost them thousands of pesos but will only be utilized for at most one hour. Then after which they look at their empty wallets and scream, “Oh my God!” Some people also start to play with fireworks at this time, although only in small amounts. Also during Dec. 31, people are again expected to go to church and expected to get ready, equipped with watches and countdown timers, until 12:00 midnight strikes. Then… (continued in the next number)
5. January: When 12:00 midnight strikes, it is officially January 1, and people are expected to make merry of themselves by setting off the “tons” of fireworks they have brought (for at least thirty minutes, I think), thus polluting the sky with burned gunpowder, flying sticks and burning paper and making very loud noises in order to eradicate bad spirits lurking in the shadows, as the legends say. Anyway, if you do not have fireworks (and the Department of Health is very viligent in promoting this kind of practice), just get your trumpets (which is, anyway, not the kind of trumpet that you use in orchestras, and more of an imitation) and blow at it until your breath runs out or just pound away at something metal (metal here refers to aluminum, iron, or maybe lead, not gold, silver or platinum) until your hands turn red or you have no more energy to pound it. Also, if you have cars, you must honk the horn mercilessly, or if you have motorcycles or bicycles, you are allowed to travel the country (if you like, and can) dragging pieces of you metal roof. After the commotion, people eat again around the table in the event called the “Buena Noche” for celebrating the new year (which is, for those who do not know, the past year + 1). After some hours of sleep (maybe due to the fact that people still play with fireworks or you just don’t like to sleep long), people are seen sweeping out the debris left last night. Some children can also be seen collecting unexploded fireworks. Also, the headlines scream of many victims of fireworks incidents, ranging from blinded people and amputations to dead people and fire.
6. February: The season of love. Christmas trees have been dismantled at this time, but some people haven’t yet. Also you can see (although rarely) some Christmas decors displayed. Since it is the season of love, people rush out to flea markets and malls in order to buy presents and flowers to their loved ones. Since it is still cold and only one to two months had passed since December and January, people are still taling about it, and also lookig forward to the end of their current school years and graduation.
Well, I think that’s all of it. As you can see, Christmas is brooded over for 6 months. I don’t know about you, but for me its a TERRIBLY LONG time. But then what amazes me sometimes is the unfaltering “loyalty” of the Filipino people in regards to this ocassion, which can be traced back 400 years ago to the day when the Spaniards colonized the Philippines (circa 1529).