27 December 2012

The Christmas Spirit

The Christmas holidays I grew up with usually last from late November to early January. "Happy Holidays" is the more generic greeting. But since I am Catholic, I often refer to it as the Christmas season since we rarely celebrate Thanksgiving day. New Year's day is often just an extension of Christmas. The only difference is that there are more fireworks on New Years day than on Christmas eve. But for both occasions  we feast on different types of Filipino food both of local origin or of foreign influence. I wish to talk about the dinner table but then again, I have missed taking photos last Christmas eve.

By tradition, we attend the Eucharist (Catholic mass) on Christmas day though some more traditional families attend early masses at dawn for 9 days until Christmas day. Firecrackers are as common as cars on the street though the mayor in my hometown has banned lighting it for several years now. We still make noise with our pots and pans and car sirens.

The tree is just a symbol brought by the white settlers and today it exists in almost every household in the Philippines during the Christmas season. Sadly I have gotten used to not having one in my place for years. The more symbolic icon is the lantern we call "parol." I once posted a photo in my older post. Only recently I have discovered its history and I think it makes sense that this star-looking lantern used to guide people in the night when there were no street lamps.

There are no chimneys in our homes but I still get to hang my stockings on the wall and wait for it to be bursting with chocolates and other sweet things from a child's imagination. I used to believe in Santa too and honestly thought he dropped down from the sky on Christmas eve to hand over the gifts to my mom. Nonetheless, there will always be gifts underneath that colorful tree. We kiss and hug and open them.

We also sing carols but not as often as we used to. As kids, we walked to every house in the neighborhood after sundown to sing Christmas songs in English, Tagalog or Bisaya. We waited at the gates until the house owner hands over a few coins or a peso bill if we're lucky. A basket of goodies will also do.

These are just bits and pieces of that happy spirit. Most importantly, Christmas is spent with family. If it is entirely impossible, we spend time with our closest friends and still call them or sms them to drop that one happy greeting "Merry Christmas" and everything else does not seem to matter.

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