Jose Mari Chan Memes, Parols, Noche Buena, And More: Why Do Filipinos Love Christmas So Much?
Filipinos are notorious for being a bit lax with time, but the one thing we're always early for? The holiday season. It's only 2 September, and yet Christmas shops have opened up and parols have already been strung. It's a joyful reminder of better times ahead — a much-needed reprieve amidst all the tragedies our country and our countrymen have faced this year. But this phenomenon isn't new. Every year, Filipinos consistently begin the holiday season during the "ber" months: 1 September. And it doesn't begin there, people prepare for the "ber" months as early as August. Our excitement for the holidays has earned us a fun moniker as the "country with the longest holiday season". But why is that exactly?
The "Ber" Months
Many sociologists believe that the "ber" month celebrations began organically. In one article, Wilfrido Arcilla, a marketing consultant who teaches at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business, commented that the country's love for Christmas isn't "some grand design" meant to entice consumers to simply go shopping. So while there is an aspect of commercialism involved in our months-long celebration, most would agree that there is a deeper meaning to it than the Filipino "mall culture".
One of the most obvious factors that point to why we love Christmas is religion. The Philippines is largely Catholic and roughly 90% of the entire population is Christian. But some sociologists have also pointed out that the Filipino culture is naturally a very celebratory one. We have 18 public holidays every year, not to mention a fiesta for each of the 144 cities in the country.
We're known worldwide for throwing spectacular celebrations filled with dances, food, and colourful costumes such as Sinulog, Moriones, MassKara, and Ati-Atihan. The Filipino culture is also highly collectivistic, meaning that it's common for an individual to maintain close and long-term commitments to a certain group such as family or friends (barkada). This is particularly apparent for our love of gatherings — one of the key activities during Christmastime.
Not only that but there's also a huge sense of homecoming attached to the Filipino holiday spirit. Because the culture is so family-centric, many of our countrymen look forward to the holidays as a reunion between them and family members from abroad.
Things To Look Forward To
Nothing marks the start of the holiday season better than Christmas music. And as a culture that boasts plenty of wonderful singers, it's no surprise that song has become a great welcomer for the holidays. The most famous person come September? Jose Mari Chan (although Mariah Carey comes at a close second). But quirky personalities are just the tip of the iceberg for Filipinos. We have a rich history filled with traditions both religious and secular. One of the most significant has got to be Simbang Gabi — a nightly midnight mass that begins nine days before Christmas and culminates in a beautiful celebration of Misa de Gallo.
Noche Buena is also a huge favourite among Pinoys. The midnight meal shared among local families is something many people look forward to. There's usually a generous spread of lechon (roast pig), along with macaroni salad and Filipino style spaghetti. Puto bumbong (purple rice cake cooked in bamboo), bibingka (rice cake baked over coals), and castañas (roasted chestnuts) are also among some of the local favourites.
With such a rich tradition, it's no wonder that Filipinos tend to look forward to Christmas. After all, we're all in dire need of even just a little holiday cheer.
Read also: Some Of The Countries That Don't Celebrate Christmas