The “Ber months” have an interesting origin story. Some say they came about because the majority of Filipnos are Catholic and followed the Liturgical calendar, while others trace it back to the frenzy leading up to overseas workers (OFWs) returning home for the holidays.
We look at some of the reasons why Filipinos celebrate Christmas for longer than any other country in the world.
Filipinos love celebrating
If you’re FIlipino and visit shopping malls often, you would notice that the decor constantly changes from season to season. For instance, Christmas decorations are usually brought out at the start of September. Come January to February, decorations for the Valentine season and the Lunar New Year are often brought out. Once March is around the corner, floral designs or summer-themed decorations can be seen everywhere. Lastly, June to August are usually associated with back-to-school themes and rainy weather themes. Other occasions such as the Mid-Autumn Festival, Ramadan, and the Lunar New Year are also often commemorated and both public and private establishments often join in by offering special promos to match the seasons.
In summary, it is apparent that FIlipinos celebrate from one occasion to the next. Filipinos like something to look forward to and see every moment worth celebrating or commemorating.
Christmas is particularly worth celebrating because it is generally associated with the coming of Christ for Catholics and Christians, a demographic that comprises around 80% of the population. Due to religious sentiments, the season also comes with hope, which provides comfort that things will turn out for the better.
Pinoys are optimists
Despite being one of the poorest countries, the Philippines is ranked as one of the most optimistic countries in the world. It does make sense given that we are known to smile a lot and are considered to be friendly towards foreigners and expats.
A common exchange between two friends would usually be:
Friend 1: Musta? (“How are you?”)
Friend 2: Ito, problema na naman. Bahala na. (“I have a problem, but whatever. Come what may.”)
Friend 1: Ok lang iyan. (“Everything will be fine.”)
In other words, comfort is often found through optimism and the expectation that everything will be fine.
Christmas time is also usually associated with merriment and positivity, which Filipinos love. Hence, seeing things in a positive light despite adversity is always preferred, and the season signifies exactly that.
Filipino culture is centred around giving
We Filipinos take pride in being generous and giving, which often means we share whatever we have with others, which can be seen through the popular sending of a Balikbayan Box. Getting along with others is always something Filipinos strive for, which is why extending help to neighbours, family, friends and even strangers is often standard or expected.
Christmas time is synonymous with gift giving, which is probably why Filipinos love celebrating it. We love to give and receive gifts, no matter how small or big they are. In fact, it is customary to give tokens to colleagues, clients and even acquaintances. This practice is somewhat unique, as other cultures do not observe this. In Australia for example, Christmas gifts are often only exchanged with family members and close friends, and not work colleagues even if they are your mates.
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Pinoys like being part of something fun
What usually comes with special occasions? Lots of lights and colorful decorations!
Filipinos love to decorate, especially when it comes to Christmas and “fiestas”, a more localized version of festivals. Houses and streets are usually adorned with bright coloured trimmings and theme-appropriate buntings, free for bystanders to see and appreciate. Decorations are not only present indoors, but also extend to the exteriors of the house.
Tinsel and lots of sparkly lights are the norm, so is the use of giant Santas climbing down a wall!
A parol, originating from the Spanish word “farol” or “lantern” is a stylized symbol of the star that the Wise Men supposedly followed when they first visited Jesus. It is also often used as an outdoor ornament.
Communities such as subdivisions and city councils often run Christmas decor competitions amongst residents, with the objective of bringing other non-residents to visit and possibly contribute to local businesses. Hence, Christmas is often associated with community contests and is something that is worth getting excited about.
Filipinos love to eat and connect with others
If Filipinos were to name a national hobby, eating would probably be it. Eating is seen as a social activity that you share with friends, family and even strangers. Multiple get togethers with various groups are also done during a traditional Filipino Christmas, which is why the season is also synonymous to connecting with people.
The saying “food is love” rings true for Pinoys, as giving food is also a way of showing that you care. It is also customary to never say no when being offered food, as it may come off as a sign of refusal of affection. Motherly figures also amiably require family members and guests to eat until they can no longer have another bite, as this is usually a sign that she has done her part to take care of them.
Pinoys love to eat because food signifies abundance and enjoyment, which are traits that the holiday season usually brings. Christmas time is also the time that several dishes are prepared and eaten with loved ones, which is also one of the reasons why Piniys cherish the season so much.
If you want to bring the taste of home in Australia, try some of the classic Filipino recipes.
Time to "Plan, prepare and prioritize"
Having the 100 days until Christmas countdown gives people enough time to prepare and plan for all the activities and festivities that will happen over Christmas time, as well as motivation to have everything finished by then. All the decorating, gift buying and meal preparations are essential and take a lot of time and planning, so Filipinos need to dedicate extra time to their Christmas celebrations.
Having enough time to reunite with family and get to one’s home town to celebrate is very important in the Filipino culture. The Filipino overseas workers returning for Christmas is a homecoming that everyone anticipates and plans for.