Hmmmm, it seems like yesterday that I can still remember our Christmas decorations back in the Philippines. I’ve been working with my wife as a Teacher here at Thailand for a few months now, different culture, places, people. What else? Of course, different Tradition. This is my story on what I am missing back home.
Philippines, is a catholic centered country in which very different on where I am now. I can still remember when I was a young boy, I would start decorating our homes at the start of “BER” months or in short SeptemBER. I wouldn’t miss laying our Christmas tree at our living room, those Christmas lights that shines brightly at night. It isn’t just me whose doing that, everyone in my neighborhood is rushing to the malls to buy their own decorations for their houses as well.
If you’ve been during this months in our country, in which most foreigners find it a little bit strange, most of the malls are starting to play Christmas songs early as if Halloween will never take place on November. Even our mainstream media will start countdown to Christmas on their clocks.
Christmas shopping is also a widespread tradition of the Filipinos as for us gifts is a part of each and every one of us. Mostly, we from Manila would spend hours at the place called DIVISORIA, it is a place in the capital city of Manila in which you could buy everything from clothes, toys, appliances, gadgets, food etc. All in that place for very cheap prices than in malls.
Lantern or “PAROLS” as we called it is a “MUST” in everyone’s home. It is a symbol of the north star in which the 3 Kings followed during the time when Jesus was born in the manger. These lanterns comes from all sizes from the biggest one in which it is larger than your house to the small ones that can fit into the dashboard of your car, it comes also in different figures from the normal star with different colors to the Holy Family, to Santa and his sleigh, to trees and flowers, to even animals. Yearly in Pampanga, Philippines in which a place famous for the lanterns is having contests to showcase the most beautiful lanterns made by their people.
During the month of December, that’s when the malls are having their own tree lighting ceremonies to mark the start of the most beautiful season of all. As well for the Catholics, starting at dawn time from 15th to 25th is when the “Simbang Gabi” is held or Novena mass for 9 days, they say when you complete the mass, your wish will come true.
Speaking of the “Simbang Gabi”, a usual snack that can be bought alongside of the church is called BIBINGKA a kind of filipino rice cake with cheese, butter and salted eggs on top and PUTO BUNGBONG, another kind of rice cake but usually flavored with purple yam, desiccated coconuts and butter. You know, remembering just this snack can make my mouth water! Hehe!
Then, the most waited time of all, the Christmas day. Our tradition during these times is usually a complete family reunion, gift giving and eating meals together. For us one of our sayings is, during Christmas is the time in which everyone is forgiven and start a new for the next year.
Lastly is the new year, unlike in other countries, filipinos really love to enjoy their celebrations, a norm in our tradition is buying truck loads of fireworks, even to the point of wasting money to create a big Hollywood style explosion as the clocks strike at exactly 12 midnight. It is for us that to keep the bad luck away and start a new year and yes it is known that filipinos love to celebrate widely. After that wild explosions, a meal with the family usually takes place.
BUT, hmmmmmm, a lot of Filipinos are working abroad like us for our families, to help them survive. So most us will miss this tradition as we cannot go back home for this special season. I have to agree that living and working abroad will be hard not just for us, but as well to all the expats who are working here in Thailand and in different countries.
As for the readers, I hope that you could try to spend the holidays in the Philippines if you can, because if you didn’t, you will be missing one of the most amazing Christmas celebrations in the world! Happy Holidays Everyone!!!! And before I end this story, I would like to personally greet and thank my parents, Renato and Rose Gutierrez for supporting me in all these years. I love you!