Everywhere you go nowadays, you see a lot of Christmas decorations, the Christmas songs are playing everywhere, and the shops are filled with Christmas shoppers. I’ve got my Christmas tree up, decorated heavily with Christmas balls and lights, the presents are all wrapped up and are sitting comfortably under the tree. Everyone’s looking forward to seeing another white Christmas (minus the snow shovels and snow storms). Yet, despite all the merry decorations and great looking lights, I love Christmas in the Philippines. And then, you ask: What is so special about Christmas in the Philippines?
You haven’t experienced Christmas yet till you experienced it in the Philippines. Our Christmas season starts on December 16. It usually ends around January 2 or 4. Sometimes, people even wait till the “Three Kings” before they take down their Christmasdecors. I think that is usually the last week of January or first week of February! Christmas in the Philippines has been described as the longest Christmas celebration in the world. Okay, so what usually happens on December 16? That’s when the “Simbang Gabi” officialy starts all over the Philippines. People of all ages, whether you’re 5 or 55, rich or poor, everyone looks forward to Simbang Gabi. Some people never miss a single Simbang Gabi at all, most people believe that if you complete December 16 to December 24 (yes, all those 9 Christmas masses), your wish will be granted. I don’t usually go, because it is usually too early (some churches start as early as 3:30 AM and some are more forgiving and start at 4 or 4:30 AM). Lovers walk hand-in-hand, whole families walk to church together(and some drive, but it’s more fun if you walk since there’s too much traffic anyway and if you walk you get to eat all the Christmas goodies being sold in the streets). Groups of friends (or barkadas, as we call them) all walk together, giggling and teasing each other. Churches are jam-packed, most people can’t get in the church so they end up just sitting or standing right outside. As soon as the Holy Mass is over, everyone scrambles to the street stalls selling freshly cooked goodies. (note: you’ll end up buying since you’re going to drool over the smell). Bibingka, kutsinta, puto bumbong, salabat, arroz caldo, lugaw, hot cocoa and hot coffee are all being served to hungry churchgoers by these business savvy street food peddlers. The weather is usually cooler in December (in the early morning hours, it might get down to as low as 60 degrees F).