December 8, 2023

There is something unique about the Yuletide season in the Philippines. For one, it is the longest celebration in the world. It starts as early as September and ends during the second week of January. Sometimes, it lasts even longer than that as the celebration is carried over until the advent of Valentine’s Day which is already February. But who cares? Nobody is complaining. Everybody is happy.
Second, the celebration of Christmas in the Philippines is the most festive. No other country in the world prepares as much. That is why, during December, Filipinos generally gain weight. Some even die because of heart attack or hypertension. There is party everywhere. Food abounds. I guess it is the way we show our love for one another. We feed each other. When Jesus Christ said that the most important commandment is to “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” we took it literally. During Christmas, we feed our neighbors until they cannot eat anymore. We take it as an offense if they shun the food we serve. That is how we show our love. We drink and be merry for tomorrow is another day. To heck with discipline and diet.
Third, there is much extravagance during the time of the year. People squander all their money to buy gifts for their loved ones. This is not the time when we exercise frugality. We splurge and if we have nothing to splurge with, we borrow. Generosity and greed to a fault are traits that become dominant during Christmas. We get exploited and we exploit in return. We give gifts and we expect gifts. We are forgetful that there are 11 other months that we need our funds. Yet, we don’t mind spending it in one month saying to ourselves, “It is Christmas!” Yes, we love Christmas because of the sheer materiality involved with it. We forget that it is a religious event. We forget that it is not in gift giving or receiving that we must celebrate but it is in believing that we are saved by the birth of Christ.
Fourth, Christmas in the Philippines lights up the country. The festivity is enhanced by lights. The nights are illuminated by Christmas sparklers. All houses have their own lanterns blinking with yellow, white, blue, green, red, and other primary colors. The festivity is further magnified by the presence of giant malls that display all sorts of advertisements, urging and tempting the people to “come inside and buy items for your Noche Buena.” It’s a fiesta alright. It puts a smile on the face of everyone. But, whether there is contentment is another matter. Perhaps, for a time we are glad that Christmas is here to stay. In the long run, we must realize that we are duped into believing that the season is meant for spending instead of for bonding.
Look, if we honestly believe that Christmas is the birth of a Messiah, we won’t be spending as much, we won’t be eating as much, and we won’t be expecting as much. As Christians, we ought to be contended by the thought that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” This is the best gift.
Regardless of how we look at Christmas, it is already a part of our tradition. The way we celebrate it is unique because it is the Filipino way. It is part of our identity as a people. Truly, it has no equal in the world. So, wherever you are or whoever you are with, if you are a Filipino, be glad that there is Christmas. It is a time of giving and a time for forgiving.
As a Filipino, I am happy to be a part of this year’s Christmas celebration. Although I am not in any position to give any gifts, I certainly am in a position to greet everybody.
Merry Christmas to all!