“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the treetops glisten and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow..”
When I was young, a perfect Christmas for me would be a White Christmas, where in I could play with snowballs, build the frosty snow man, and wait for the sleigh of Santa Claus to deliver the Christmas gifts under our mistletoe. But many Christmas have passed, I’ve never even experienced one of these things. And I just realized that yes, it is possible for some countries like, USA, but here in Philippines, White Christmas would just be a flight of the imagination.
Well, my wildest dream for a White Christmas here in our country have changed, as I became familiarize with the traditions that mostly Filipinos are fun of doing during this Yuletide Season. We are the longest, and absolutely, the merriest Christmas Celebration around the world.
Usually, when the “BER” months enter, you could already see houses that were surrounded by shining and shimmering Christmas lights, with giant star lanterns hung outside the houses. It is our tradition to have what we called “Parol” during Christmas, because we believed that it symbolizes as the guiding light when our Jesus Christ was born.
We also have what we called “Simbang Gabi”, it happens during the 16th of December, and ends on the Christmas Eve, December 24. It is a series of masses for 9 dawns. If you complete all the 9 masses, they said that whatever you will wish for, will be granted.
Also, in “Simbang Gabi”, who would ever forget to eat these two native holiday treats? The Puto bumbong, and Bibingka, it could be found in different stalls for the Church goers every Simbang Gabi.
Puto Bumbong is made up of glutinous rice called Pirurutong, it is topped with butter, fresh coconut shreds, and cane sugar. On the other hand, Bibingka, is a rice cake made from glutinous rice, egg, and water topped with salty eggs, and cheese.
Another habit of Filipinos, which I considered now as a part of Tradition during Christmas, is shopping. Yes, shopping, during this season we might have money or zero balance in our ATM accounts, but we would still find ways to buy gifts to our loved ones. We go on Sales, or the most convenient place to go for to save the day, to visit the land of Divisoria. There, we could find 3 for 100 t-shirts, 10- 20 pesos for toys, 50 pesos for flip flops and 2 for 150 for couple shirts. Like what they’ve said, “It’s the thought that counts.”, and what important is we practice the art of sharing/giving most especially during Christmas.
Another, Christmas won’t be the same without asking “Ano ang ihahanda natin?” . Because Philippines is known as the “Land of Fiestas”, that’s why during Christmas Eve we have Noche Buena, it is a traditional feast where family usually gathers at 12 midnight to dine together.
In Noche Buena, the most popular dishes to be served are morcon, embutido, relyenong bangus, lumpia, pansit, and the famous “lechon”. Aside from that, there is always ham on the table, but it is usually eaten during Christmas Day.
However, Noche Buena is not always about foods, and cholesterol. But it is about the Filipino family close ties, and the family tradition.
On the 25th of December, the exact date of Christmas Day, the toddlers usually visit their God Parents for their Aguinaldos, it is a money or a gift given for their God Children during Christmas. Moreover, this is also the day for a family to have a strong bond, to meet the extended families, to have a reunion, and the likes. But most of all, this is also the day to celebrate the birthday of our Savior, Lord Jesus Christ.
This is how Filipinos celebrate Christmas on a splendid tropical climate; let’s try to invade the celebration of the Americans, who have a broad range of weather, and already experienced my dream of an Oh-so-White Christmas.
Christmas in United States is a mixture of different cultures coming from England and Australia for Christmas Carols, Christmas trees from Germany, Santa Claus from Europe, and parades from Latin America.
Just like in Philippines, Streets and houses are decorated with Christmas trees and colorful Christmas lights. They also put statues of Santa Claus, Snowman, or Reindeers in front of their houses.
In New York, they have small town called “North Pole”, it is designed for Santa Claus and his reindeers. There’s a post office where in children could write letters, and ask Santa Claus the gifts they want to receive in Christmas Day.
Katruz Shannen Albano, 17, a friend of mine, migrated in US last October 2010. This year would be her second time to celebrate Christmas in US, the first Christmas according to her is not that happy compared to the Christmas here in Philippines.
“ Masasabi kong hindi naman talaga kasing saya ng pasko sa pilipinas iyong pasko dito sa Amerika. Totoo pala yung sinasabi nila na Iba pa rin talaga yung Paskong Pinoy,” She said.
She also added that even though Christmas in US is considered as holiday, people would still prefer to go to work because of Double pay, unlike in Philippines, because we love to extend our vacation in work just to spend more quality time with family. She also said that Thanks Giving in US is more important for the Americans compared to Christmas, because during Thanks Giving, there a lot of clothes, shoes, gadgets, and etc. that are on SALE.
Moreover, she said that the main dish of their Noche Buena in US is Turkey and ham, because it is said to be a Christmas Tradition in US.
When asked if her 1st Christmas in US is a White Christmas, she said “Last year, mga bandang November 16 pa lang nag ssnow na, hangang mag pasko yun. Naranasan kong maglaro ng snow, gumawa ng snowman, na hindi ko naman naransan sa Pilipinas.”
She said that she is too excited to spend her 1st Christmas in US because of White Christmas. But when she already experienced Christmas in other country, she felt sad, and longing to go back in Philippines to eat her favorite Bibingka, to go to Simbang Gabi with his barkadas, and also, to feel the belongingness. “Malungkot kasi parang kami lang yung nagsasaya dito, yung paligid namin tahimik lang, hindi tulad sa Pinas. Madaming Christmas Party, mga inuman, yung mga ganun talaga yung sobrang nakaka-miss,” she ended.
Having a Plain Christmas, I mean no snow, and no more dreaming of a White Christmas, just the typical Christmas in Philippines is much better. Because in here, you will feel the true meaning of Christmas that cannot be felt in other countries. Many of our OFWs are dying to fly back to the Philippines because they want to celebrate Christmas here with their families.
White, Asia, Spanish or whatever kinds of Christmas it will be. Filipino Christmas will always be in our hearts.