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Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas in the Philippines

Here in the Philippines, we hold the longest and the most festive Christmas celebration in the whole world. It starts from December 16 to January 6 of the following year. The celebration opens with a traditional nine-day dawn mass (simbang gabi), which starts on the 16th of December until Christmas Eve.

The tradition has started during the Spanish colonization of the Philippines from 1521-1898. Roman Catholic friars would celebrate Christmas masses. Since Filipino farmers work very early in the morning, masses start at the earliest time before they go to the farm to work. Presently, there are churches that have simbang gabi worship even during the evening not only in Roman Catholic churches but also in evangelical protestant churches. Christmas is a season when people flock to churches to hear mass or worship services to relive the biblical story of Christmas.

People would adorn their houses with lanterns of different styles, from big and ritzy with colorful lights to small and simple made of Japanese paper. They put up Christmas trees with all sorts of lights, glitters and balls. Even the streets come alive at night with the different lights that dance with the cool December breeze.

One of the signs of Christmas festivity is the Christmas rush. I think Philippines is the only country in the world that has specific labor legislation that puts into law a special year-end bonus compensation, the 13th-month pay and Christmas bonus so that people could have a merry Christmas celebration. Thus, armed with their Christmas bonuses, people flock to marketplaces and shopping malls to buy special food that they do not usually eat everyday like ham, cheese balls, and fruits that they will prepare for the Christmas Eve noche buena and Christmas Day and gifts for their godchildren, friends and loved ones. It is a traditional custom for godparents to give gifts to their godchildren as part of the Christmas celebration so they would welcome their godchildren into their homes during Christmas Day.

It is also an occasion for family reunions. There are Christmas parties and kris kringle almost in every corner, in schools and workplaces to celebrate the special holiday.

It is indeed the happiest season of all!

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