In the centuries-old carol “12 Days of Christmas,” the celebrations lasted less than two weeks.
Today Christmas is regularly celebrated throughout December, and in some places, part of November as well.
But four months of festivities in the Philippines give new meaning to the term “holiday.”
Robert Blancaflor, president of Manila-based event design firm Robert Blancaflor Group, says Christmas is celebrated in the “ber” months – meaning September, October, November and December.
“Christmas is the longest celebrated season in the Philippines and… our country celebrates it the longest globally,” he said. “Can you imagine an entire people willing to share warmth and love… for so long?”
“Everywhere you look here is just a Merry Christmas,” said Robert Blancaflor, a finalist for Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year. such a joyful country”.
Courtesy of Robert Blancaflor
But the parties don’t end in December.
“The Christmas rush started on September 1 and ended in the first week of January,” said Marot Nelmida-Flores, a professor of Philippine studies at the University of the Philippines Diliman.
However, this is “a recent phenomenon,” she said. And why is the familiar one.
“With the proliferation of shopping malls, first in the capital Manila, then mushrooming to the provinces, Christmas carols began to ring shortly after All Saints’ Day. [on] Joven Cuanang, a neuroscientist and an art and culture enthusiast in the Philippines, said Nov.
Retail stores selling Christmas themed goods earlier than in the past are the cause of so-called “Christmas festivities” in many countries. A significant difference is that while others condemned the practice, Mostly Filipinos take it.
A vendor in Manila sleeps among Christmas lanterns or paper and bamboo lanterns shaped like the Star of Bethlehem.
NOEL CELIS | AFP | beautiful pictures
“Filipinos started making lanterns, or Christmas lights, as early as September,” says Nelmida-Flores. “Nowadays, many parts of the islands have plazas and themed parks. Christmas carries their own brand.”
A sculpture in Manila pays tribute to overseas Filipino workers, many of whom are parents who spend years away from their children and loved ones to earn money to support them financially.
JAY DIRECTO | AFP | beautiful pictures
That probably won’t happen this year. Many of these overseas workers, who live in places like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong, are not traveling this year due to the global pandemic.
Marites Rhime Lopez Javier, who has lived and worked in Singapore for 18 years, has not seen her family in the Philippines since 2019. She plans to spend Christmas with them, including her first grandchild born last month. , through video chat.
Javier says radio stations start playing Christmas songs in English and Tagalog in September. This is also when the decorations – including the Christmas tree – go up in price. Festivals and beauty contests, a controversial but hugely popular activity in the Philippines, starting in October, she said.
L: Ramiro Hinojas, known as the “dancing traffic cop” directs traffic in Manila dressed as Santa Claus; R: Marites Rhime Lopez Javier said Santa Claus is not as popular in the Philippines as in other countries. “It’s the aunts [female relatives] people who put money in children’s socks. “
L: TED ALJIBE | AFP | Beautiful pictures; R: Courtesy of Marites Javier
She said as a child her family made their Christmas tree out of paper and cardboard. Now, cheap plastic trees have become the norm in her village.
When asked if she feels there is “too much Christmas” in the Philippines, the 45-year-old Luzon resident said: “No, we enjoyed it! It was a very happy time.”
Manila Peninsula “We used to light a 45-foot Christmas tree in early November, but” we moved it a little earlier to the second Friday of the week, said Mariano Garchitorena, the hotel’s public relations manager. October “.
He said “there’s no reason to delay Christmas, as Christmas is always a good idea,” adding that this is what “any good Filipino, like me, would say.”
Mariano Garchitorena said that the staff of Peninsula Manila started planning for Christmas in June.
Courtesy of The Peninsula Manila
Garchitorena says the hotel includes al fresco dining in its holiday plans “to take advantage of the fine weather”. The The average temperature in Manila in December is 25 C (78 F), according to Climate-Data.org.
Nina Halley, founder of a flower and decoration company in Manila Love Garden, said she started taking Christmas orders in July.
“The Philippines is heavily influenced by the West, especially the United States,” Halley said. “So the same pine and cypress, conifer and dried oranges are heavily used in our decoration. Believe it or not, we import fir trees … from Europe.”
Blancaflor said religion is a cornerstone of the Philippines’ lengthy festive period, adding that “the country is celebrating [its] The 500th year of Christianity” this year.
Some 92% of people in the Philippines are Catholic, according to the Stanford School of Medicine. Of the 110 million inhabitants, more than 80% identify as Roman Catholic – a number larger than Italy.
Some 88% of Filipinos say they are very or moderately religious, according to a 2020 survey by the Philippine social research organization, Social Weather Stations.
Catholics attending pre-dawn “Simbang Gabi” Masses in 2020 have had to social distance or attend services in virtually all areas, due to the global pandemic.
Ezra Acayan | Getty Images News | beautiful pictures
Many devotees, says Blancaflor, take part in the tradition of Simbang Gabi, a nine-day period before dawn that lasts from December 16 to 24. The practice is said to have been introduced by scholars. Spanish missionaries in the 17th century.
Cuanang said this used to mark the beginning of Christmas as a child: “Every dawn for nine days, we huddled in the cold, going to church, culminating in a midnight mass at midnight. Christmas Eve.”
Joven Cuanang said that when he was growing up in Ilocos, Luzon, the kids went from theater to theater to Christmas carols in exchange for tupig, a sweet rice cake that, like young Filipinos, circa 1955, was offered. show here.
Evans | Three Lions | Hulton Archives | beautiful pictures
Back then, the celebration lasted only about three weeks, he said.
“Most people of my generation find four months to be a bit long,” said Cuanang, 81.
“Filipinos are a cheerful people,” Halley said, adding that her compatriots will find “any excuse to celebrate and prepare food, gather around the table, sing, dance. and have fun”.
Nina Halley and her “Christmas Tree with Roses” arrangement, made with roses, carnations, gypsophila (baby’s breath) and eucalyptus.
Courtesy of Nina Halley and the Garden of Love
Linda Abella, 63, repairs Christmas tree decorations outside her house in Palo, Philippines that was hit by a hurricane on December 23, 2013.
Ezra Acayan | NurPhoto | Corbis News | beautiful pictures
Nation, including about 7,100 islands, is also prone to storms. According to the Asia Disaster Mitigation Center, it is affected on average 20 times a year, 5 of which are destructive in nature.
“Filipinos quickly responded and spread the Christmas spirit with urgency [help] Blancaflor said: “One of the most beautiful things about Filipinos [is] being able to smile through life’s ups and downs and still be grateful amid the obstacles – maybe a better day will come. “