Although there is no white Christmas in this tropical archipelagic country, no one is doing the same holidays as the Philippines. Since Filipinos have one of, if not, the longest Christmas celebration ever, the whole nation is packed with bright lights, giant parols, and Christmas trees as soon as the “Ber” months start to arrive.
6 Possible Reasons Why The Philippines Has The Longest Christmas Celebration
The Philippines boasts the world’s longest year of yuletide. September opens up the so-called “Ber” (September, October, November, and December) months as the calendar of the long-held, visually sparkling season is filled with parades, festivals, concerts, and other activities.
The rest of the world expects other holidays, including Thanksgiving and Halloween, though Christmas tracks are already played in malls and radio stations in the Philippines in September. As the first Christian nation, and the largest Catholic population in Asia, when it comes to Christmas celebration, the Philippines is not afraid to go overboard. It’s not just Christmas Day in the Philippines, it’s “Christmas Season” – that lasts for more than three months.
Filipinos grew up in this culture, but where did it begin? Experts determine why it is celebrated in the Philippines for the longest of all other countries. Maybe you think Filipinos are just being Catholics. This may be one explanation, but according to sociologists, the Advent season or the preparation for the Nativity of Jesus Christ begins four Sundays before Christmas Day, which is around the last week of November or early December.
Then, who said they were supposed to begin Christmas in September? Is it Jose Mari Chan? Or is it Mariah Carey? Well, to find out, here are six (6) reasons why the Philippines has the longest Christmas celebration in the world:
1) For The Love of Festivals And Celebrations
In the Philippines, Christmas is revered because it is mainly considered a festival. This meant that cultural standards of the Christmas celebration are already in nature, which distinguishes it from others in the year. The optimistic approach to Christmas is partially influenced by how the Church celebrates it: the season of Advent. It is an extremely positive readiness for Christ’s coming. The cheerful mindset of the Philippines is religious in this sense: think of Misa de Gallo, Christmas caroling, outreach programs, and more. Filipinos also observe Christmas as a predominantly religious holiday, with over 80% of the population considered Catholic as of 2010.
Philippine festivals, just like a Christmas celebration for Filipinos, is an expression of gratitude. The big difference of Philippine festivals, however, is the connection from a good harvest in honor of the town’s patron saint. For many Filipinos, fiestas are important because of the miraculous power of the saints. It is believed that the saints are responsible for all the good fortune and favor one receives. In Cebu province alone, you can experience the multitude of joyous and colorful Cebuano festivals from the Sinulog Festival in Cebu City to the Tag-Anito Festival in a municipality of Tudela in the province of Cebu. Let us not forget the food and fruit festivals like the Manggahan Festival in Guimaras, Lanzones Festival in Camiguin, Tuna Festival in General Santos, Kesong Puti Festival in Laguna, and a lot more. Filipinos love their festivals.
2) Filipinos Have A Sense Of Ownership Of Christmas
The customs and religious beliefs of the season also give the Philippines a sense of Christmas ownership. Many traditions are enveloped around Christmas even before the modern period: traditional re-enactments like Simbang Gabi. It started in 1669, where Simbang Gabi came as a practical solution in the Philippines during the early days of Spanish rule for farmers who started working before sunrise, to escape the dawn on the fields. Priests began to say Mass in the early mornings instead of the evening novenas more common in the rest of the Hispanic world. This famous Christmas tradition soon became a distinct feature of Philippine culture and became one of the symbols of Christmas.
Christmas isn’t just a moment of faith. It is very cultural: OFWs should be home, families should be reunited. Christmas is not only about the birth of a child, but also about the family itself. A lot of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), who live and work abroad, usually return home for the holidays with families.
3) The Drought Of Celebrating Something Festive During The ‘Ber’ Months
The Philippines is among the top in the world in the number of holidays, but during the “Ber” months there is only one national holiday, Bonifacio Day (November 30), and two non-working holidays: All Saints Day (November 1), and All Saints Day (November 2). The Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary on December 8, was then officially considered a holiday in the Philippines in 2018 where President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law Republic Act 10966. When you try to discuss Oktoberfest, an annual festival in Munich, Germany, that started in 1810, the beer-drinking festival is monopolized by only one beverage brand in the Philippines. Beer drinking and booze parties are even regulated in the country.
The Philippines does not have Thanksgiving like in the United States, and Halloween is primarily a big of a celebration in Hispanic and European countries, but not in the Philippines. Halloween (or Hallows’ Eve) became popular when shopping malls and food establishments like restaurants, market it with costume parties and trick-or-treat events for children. Trick-or-treating is not even a thing for Filipinos. Christmas caroling is, even in September. When you visit shopping malls during the “Ber” months, ginormous Christmas trees and sparkling lights hide away those black plastic bats and fake vampire teeth. The only celebration Filipinos have of Halloween mostly consists of horror movie marathons and specials on TV. With that said, then, Filipinos start Christmas in September because, again, they love their festivals.Filipinos start Christmas in September because they love their festivals. Click To Tweet
4) Pre-Christmas Mall Sales And Airline Promos
Glossy Christmas decors adore mall entrance doors and lobbies. Then there are the sales and events here and there before Christmas. Airline holiday ads start to pop up. Invitations from friends and family to meet and eat out begin to arrive. A lot of people say that mall owners and restaurants manipulate people to spend. Others would also think that these businesses “hypnotize” people to spend money for Christmas as early as September. That is not the case in the Philippines. Festivals for Filipinos are intended to be joyous occasions and the monetary element of festivals can not be ignored: Filipinos are ready to spend. Well, no matter how some Filipinos would think that they have less in the financial aspect, but since the season calls for sharing and spending for gifts, dining out in groups, and indulging in food, the purchasing power of Filipinos is still great. This tradition is not created by malls. Malls and brands only respond to people’s behaviors, and they have found a great opportunity to cater to the demand.
Nowadays, people are trying to avoid the so-called “Christmas rush”, that is why they tend to drop a visit to malls to avoid heavy traffic and long lines at the counter. Also, reason #5 and #6 paved a way to an earlier mall sale and promos.
5) Aguinaldo And Gift-Giving
Christmas is considered a happy time of the year because of its wide commercialization and the practice of gift-giving. Christmas is in itself a fanfare of blessings as Filipino culture celebrate camaraderie and happiness. The family is linked to the joys of travels, expensive gifts, bountiful festivals, sales, and all that. Filipinos are very sentimental to events that had happened over the year, and they tend to feel obliged to give someone a gift, may it be big or small, to reaffirm that they are thankful and they remember. By gift-giving, they can renew the sense of obligation they have for one another. Christmas is a time when Filipinos reaffirm that.
As Filipino families, both immediate and extended alike, come together on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, this means children receive gifts from their many titos, titas, ninongs, and ninangs. The gathering starts with the traditional “mano”, a Filipino traditional gesture or as a sign of respect to elders. Aside from children, some of the adults may ask their kids to play with an instrument, song, dance, or poetry, and then they will be rewarded with their Aguinaldo of gifts in the form of toys or cash.
6) Family Reunions And Noche Buena
Christmas morning is a family and party time in most countries. The Philippines celebrates with immediate and extended families right after the Christmas Midnight Mass. The traditional Noche Buena is the festive celebration normally doubles as a meeting for those who dress in their finest clothing, cooking favorites such as lechon, queso de bola, ham, and family home recipes. After all, food connects all people all over the world. But there’s some serious feasting in the Philippines. No Filipino Christmas table is complete without the roasted pig, or lechon, the whole pig, which can weigh between 10 and 20 kilos. In La Loma, Quezon City, which is considered the lechon capital of the Philippines, rows of roasted pigs — run through with thick bamboo sticks — line the sidewalks. One lechon stall sells nearly 200 pieces a day for about ₱5,000 to ₱8,000 per lechon.
This is also the time when children and adults alike are allowed to open their presents. It is a tradition in the family or in the workplace to do what is called exchanging gifts. This trait, which is primarily reflected by Filipino hospitality culture, trickles down to how Filipinos celebrate the holiday season. Exchanging gifts is also considered an essential step in solidifying business ties.
The main reason behind this long-standing tradition of Christmas celebration turns out that Filipinos are really into for anything that will allow them to celebrate and spend more time with loved ones. It is their psychological framework to count down the days to big celebrations. 100 days until Christmas starts on September 16th but Filipinos always like to start celebrating longer. By knowing exactly how much time they have to complete a task, instead of stressing about it, they will be able to better allocate their time. A 100-day countdown also acts as a secondary motivator and reinforces them to complete their Christmas tasks before the big day. In other words, Filipinos way of thinking is hardwired to the months ahead of Christmas as a chance to buy gifts, to put up the Christmas tree and other decorations, to plan the Noche Buena, and to schedule Christmas parties.
Most importantly, Filipinos use this time to get together with family, friends, and colleagues they haven’t seen all year over good food like how Filipino ancestors did. Probably the reason why this tradition has been successfully passed on from generation to generation.
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