That’s ‘Merry Christmas’ in Tagalog, the most widely spread of the Philippines’ eight major languages. The Philippines is one of the Christmasy-est countries on earth. A Filipino will tell you that the Christmas season is during the ‘brr’ months, sorry, not ‘brr’ as in cold, but ‘ber’ as in September, October, November, and December. Yes, that’s right, one quarter of the year is Christmas season in the Philippines!
The Philippines is the only majority Christian nation in Asia, and most are Catholic. Most of their traditions are the same as Christmas in the West but to the extreme, more decorations, more masses (the first daily Christmas mass is on December 16 and the last is on Christmas day), more food and fiestas, etc. Christmas season officially ends the first Sunday in January, Epiphany.
If you decide to go caroling on Christmas Eve in the Philippines, don’t eat that day or maybe even the day before, because you get fed a feast at every house. Eating is a big part of Christmas in the PI, and the center piece of any banquet table is the big roast pig called lechon.
The most popular decoration is the parol, a beautiful star made from bamboo strips forming a star frame, then covered in Japanese colored paper or cellophane with lights inside. There is a huge variety of these, and they are lovely to behold everywhere from the dynamic decorations in the big cities like Manila to simple stars in the rural barangays. They are so popular that they are now exported and copied all over the world.
Christmas Eve, noche Buena, is celebrated with a midnight feast that can go all night till Christmas morning, with neighbors, family and friends dropping by and you visiting their feast.
Finally, there is a man who calls himself Santa R-Kayma Klaws, a 70-year-old who has been dressing up as Santa and going to spread Christmas cheer to the poor children in villages for over 50 years. He has a giant motor-sleigh, really an air-conditioned bus, that goes around visiting. He also has the only reindeer farm in the Philippines at Mt. Isarog in Camarines Sur; it is open to the public for free. You can find out more about him at http://pacificsantas.com
If you love Christmas, carols, masses and lots of food, don’t miss the ‘ber’ months in the Philippines.
Written by: Brent Adams