The traditional Christmas Eve and Christmas Day happenings probably occur in the Philippines, but I would have to say in a very tiny part of the society. The majority of people that live here simply cannot afford to observe the traditions followed in more well-to-do societies. Nevertheless, they do celebrate the holiday as best they can.
The Night Before Christmas
One of the Christmas Eve traditions in many countries is the reading of the poem “The Night Before Christmas”. As far as I know there isn’t a Tagalog (Filipino) version of it and even if there is, it would have to be so completely different from the original as to lose most of the meaning.
I thought about rewriting it into a localized, yet English version of the poem. It would have started something like this:
It was the night before Christmas
In a house full of echos,
Not a creature was stirring
Not even the geckos.
Of course, there’s really no way I could have finished it. I don’t have a poetic bone in my body and besides that, the only Santa Claus around here is me.
The Christmas gifts I’ve been giving out are nothing more than cold, hard cash. After doling out the cash, I don’t have enough money to buy anything else, although a Christmas gift basket or two would be a good idea. Unfortunately, my budget is usually too tight to actually set money aside for them.
A long-held tradition in the US, a “kind of” caroling takes place in the Philippines. Usually, the carolers are uninvited and yet they still expect something in return for their “kindness”. I’m not saying it’s like that all over the country, but it’s like that in my neck of the woods.
Most families erect small Christmas trees, if they erect any at all. In my compound, the only tree that always goes up is in my mother-in-law’s house and it’s usually put up as early as September. I won’t bother with one unless my own family is with me at the time.
The Christmas holidays in the Philippines seem to pale in comparison to the Christmas holidays in the US. For one thing, it’s never cold here (despite the locals wearing sweaters and jackets when it’s only around 70 degrees Fahrenheit). Of course, snow is out of the question unless you make it yourself. Despite the differences, people still generally seem to enjoy the spirit of the season.
[Originally published in December, 2008]