Centuries ago, Carol’s “The Twelve Days of Christmas” celebrates less than two weeks.
Today, Christmas is celebrated regularly throughout December, and in some places a significant portion of November.
However, the four-month festival in the Philippines gives the term “holiday season” a new meaning.
Robert Blancaflor, president of the Manila-based event design company Robert Blancaflor Group, celebrates Christmas in the “ber” month in the Philippines, September, October, November and December.
“Christmas is the longest celebrated season in the Philippines, and … our country celebrates it the longest in the world,” he said. “Can you imagine the whole country willing to share warmth and love … for so long?”
“Everywhere you look here is pure Christmas,” said Robert Blancaflor, finalist of Ernst & Young’s entrepreneur of the year. “I’m happy to live in such a fun country.” I added.
Courtesy of Robert Blancaflor
But the party doesn’t end in December.
“Christmas fever begins on September 1st and ends in the first week of January,” said Marot Nelmida-Flores, a professor of research in the Philippines at the University of the Philippines Diliman.
But she said this was a “recent phenomenon.” And the reason is familiar.
“With the proliferation of shopping malls, it first grew into Metro Manila and later into rural areas, and Christmas carols began to be heard shortly after All Saints’ Day. [on] “November 1, this was to attract people to shop for Christmas gifts and was commerce-driven,” said Joven Cuanang, a neurologist and respected art and culture enthusiast in the Philippines. “.
Retailers pushing Christmas-themed products faster than ever are the cause of so-called “Christmas creep” in many countries. The big difference is that Filipinos mainly accept it, while others blame it.
The Manila vendor sleeps in a Christmas “parol”, a lantern made of paper and bamboo shaped like a star of Bethlehem.
NOEL CELIS | AFP | Getty Images
“Filipinos start making paroles or Christmas lanterns as early as September,” said Nelmida-Flores. “Currently, many parts of the island have their own trademark parols and Christmas-themed squares and parks.”
According to Nelmida-Flores, another factor that boosts the cheers of the season is the resurrection of “Bali Kubayan.” According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, there are an estimated 2.2 million Filipino citizens working abroad. According to the data website Statista, overseas Filipino workers sent back about $ 30 billion to the Philippines in 2020. This represents almost 10% of the country’s gross domestic product.
Manila sculptures pay homage to Filipino workers abroad, many of whom are loved ones who spend years away from their children and earn wages to financially support them. I’m a parent.
JAY DIRECTO | AFP | Getty Images
This year will not be the case. Many overseas workers living in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, etc. are not traveling this year due to a pandemic.
Marites Rheme Lopez Javier, who has lived and worked in Singapore for 18 years, has not met her family in the Philippines since 2019. She will celebrate Christmas with video chat, including her first grandson born last month.
According to Javier, the radio station will begin playing Christmas songs in English and Tagalog in September. This is also when the decorations, including the Christmas tree, go up. She said the festival and beauty pageant, a controversial but very popular activity in the Philippines, will start in October.
L: Ramiro Hinojas, known as the “Dancing Traffic Policeman,” guides Manila traffic in Santa Claus costumes. R: Marites Rheme Lopez Javier said Santa is less popular in the Philippines than in other countries. “It’s an aunt [female relatives] A person who slips money into children’s stockings “
L: TED ALJIBE | AFP | Getty Images; R: Courtesy of Marites Javier
When she was a kid, she said her family made a Christmas tree out of Manila paper and cardboard. Cheap plastic trees are now common in her village.
When asked if the Philippines felt “too much Christmas,” a 45-year-old indigenous people on Luzon replied, “No, I’m having fun. It’s a very happy time.”
Shift the celebration early
The Peninsula Manila lit a 45-foot Christmas tree in early November, but “moved a little earlier on the second Friday of October,” said Mariano Garchitrena, director of public relations at the hotel. I am saying.
“Christmas is always a good idea, so there is no reason to delay it,” he added, “any good Filipino like me would say.”
Manila Peninsula staff will begin planning Christmas in June, Mariano Garchitrena said.
Provided by The Peninsula Manila
According to Garchitrena, the hotel’s holiday plans include outdoor dining “for sunny days.” According to Climate-Data.org, the average temperature in Manila in December is 25 ° C (78 ° F).
Nina Hallley, founder of The Love Garden, a Manila flower and decoration company, said she would start accepting Christmas orders in July.
“The Philippines is very much influenced by the West, especially the United States,” Harry said. “That’s why the same pine, cypress, pine cones and dried oranges are often used in our decorations. Believe it or not, we import fir trees from Europe.”
Country of faith
Religion is the basis of the long festival period in the Philippines, says Blancaflor, “The country is celebrating. [its] This year is the 500th anniversary of Christianity. “
According to Stanford University School of Medicine, about 92% of Filipinos are Christians. Of the 110 million population, more than 80% have been identified as Roman Catholic. This is a higher number than Italy.
According to a 2020 survey by the Philippine social research institute Social Weather Stations, about 88% of Filipinos say they are very or moderately religious.
Catholics who attended the nine days of the pre-dawn “Shinbangabi” Mass in 2020 must be socially distant or attend sessions in virtually some areas due to a pandemic. did not.
Ezra Acayan | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Blancaflor says that many devout people are engaged in the Simbang Gabi tradition, which is a nine-day pre-dawn mass attendance that lasts from 16th to 24th December. This practice is believed to have been introduced by Spanish missionaries in the 17th century.
It was used to mark the beginning of Christmas. Recalling his childhood participation, Cuanang said:
When Joven Cuanang grew up in Ilocos, Luzon, children sang Christmas carols from house to house in exchange for tupig, a type of sweet rice cake like the young Filipino carols around 1955. ..
Evans | Three Lions | Halton Archives | Getty Images
He said the celebration was only three weeks at the time.
“Most people in my generation feel that the four-month period is a little too long,” said 81-year-old Cuanang.
What does celebrating say about culture
“Filipinos are happy people,” Harry added, adding that her fellow citizens “have any reason to celebrate, prepare, gather around the table, sing, dance, and be cheerful.” rice field.
The arrangement of Nina Halley and her “Pink Rose Christmas Tree” is made of roses, carnations, gypsophila (baby’s breath) and eucalyptus.
Courtesy of Nina Halley and Love Garden
According to Blancaflor, the Christmas season highlights the best Filipino characteristics: hospitality, generosity, creativity and dedication to the family.
Most importantly, he said, Christmas shows a cultural dedication to helping each other.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, poverty levels rose to almost 24% earlier this year. That’s more than 26 million people living below the poverty threshold of 12,082 Philippine pesos ($ 242) per month in a family of five.
Linda Abella, 63, modified the Christmas tree decoration outside her home in Paro, Philippines, on December 23, 2013, when the typhoon hit.
Ezra Acayan | NurPhoto | Corbis News | Getty Images
This country, which consists of about 7,100 islands, is also susceptible to typhoons. According to the Asian Disaster Mitigation Center, it suffers an average of 20 times a year, five of which are devastating.
“Filipinos respond quickly and urgently turn the spirit of Christmas [help] People who were influenced above all, “Blanca Flor said. [is] You can overcome the downsides of life and smile, but you can still be grateful in the face of disability — knowing that there will be better days. “