Why Does the Philippines Have the Longest Christmas Celebration?Celebration
The Philippines is globally recognized for having the longest Christmas celebration. Its festive season starts on September first every year, commonly referred to as the beginning of the “Ber months,” and continues until the first week of January or during the Feast of Epiphany.
What is the history behind this long celebration? Is it primarily rooted in the country’s religious traditions or is it largely driven by commercial factors?
When did this tradition begin?
Generally speaking, even though the Philippines is mainly Catholic, the extended Christmas celebration in the country cannot be entirely justified as the Liturgical Calendar indicates that the Advent season begins four Sundays before Christmas Day. Therefore, if we follow this date, the celebration should commence in the latter part of November or early December.
Some might argue that it is driven by commercial factors, but it is important to note that companies and businesses simply respond to consumer behavior. In other words, because there is a high demand for buying gifts like toys and other presents, companies and businesses meet this demand by selling items early.
To clarify some assumptions, Bro. Clifford Sorita, a sociologist, stated in Marj Casal Handog’s article titled “Why does Christmas in the Philippines start in September”, that the concept of having a long Christmas celebration among Filipinos can be attributed to our “psychological framework to count down the days to big celebrations”. This idea is somehow true, as Filipinos tend to celebrate both early and belated celebrations for various occasions and festivities, not only during the Christmas season.
What do Filipinos do during the long Christmas season?
Perhaps, many of you are already curious about the practices that Filipinos observe during this long season. If you haven’t been to the Philippines yet or haven’t had the chance to interact with Filipinos, here are some things that you should know.
Listening and singing Christmas songs
From September first of every year, Christmas songs begin to play in malls, on jeepneys and radio stations. The timeless classics of Jose Mari Chan, dubbed as the king of Philippine Christmas carols, and Mariah Carey’s iconic holiday tunes start to play non-stop. You’ll sense the Christmas spirit as people around you start greeting you with “Merry Christmas and Advance Happy New Year”.
Caroling in your neighborhood
Caroling has become a fun tradition in the Philippines for both children and adults to practice every Christmas season. As early as September first, you can already see Filipinos singing Christmas carols in front of their neighbor’s houses. In return, the neighbor often offers them gifts, especially cash gifts.
In previous years, caroling was a simple tradition. However, today it has evolved into a grand event for some groups. They bring bands and musical instruments and even prepare choreographed performances to entertain their neighbors.
Putting Christmas decorations everywhere
The holiday season is the most vibrant and festive time in the Philippines. During this period, you will find Christmas lights everywhere, from homes and parks to malls and offices. People dedicate their precious time to decorating their own Christmas trees, and some go to great lengths with extravagant decorations.
Many Filipinos love shopping, and this becomes very apparent during the Christmas season. Many may claim they shop because it’s Christmas, but in reality, it’s simply because they enjoy shopping.
As early as September, Filipinos start preparing gifts, often placing them under their Christmas trees. They also begin shopping for their families, friends and coworkers.
Participating in “Simbang Gabi”
“Simbang Gabi” or Misa de Gallo is a Filipino Christmas tradition in which devotees attend a church mass around 4:00 a.m. for nine consecutive days, starting from December 16 and concluding on December 24. It is widely believed that participating in and completing these nine masses will help fulfill their wishes.
In addition to celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, taking part in this tradition also provides Filipinos with an opportunity to strengthen their bonds with friends and family members who join them.
Manito-Manita gift-giving tradition
Manito-Manita is a tradition that typically starts in September and continues until December. The terms Manito (for male recipient) and Manita (for female recipient) refer to the individuals who receive the gift from the givers. Traditionally, the giver shouldn’t know the identity of their ‘manito’ or ‘manita’. They only draw a number or a screen name from a bowl. The identity of the ‘manito’ or ‘manita’ is finally revealed during their concluding Christmas celebration. Depending on the group’s agreement, gift-giving can happen once, weekly, or monthly.
Christmas in the Philippines is a lively, vibrant, and heartwarming time of the year. That’s why many Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) always wish to go home during this season to enjoy special moments with their friends and family – missing out on this celebration feels like missing a core memory of a lifetime.
Smiles celebrates Christmas through ‘One Million Smiles’ Program
Giving gifts is one of the commendable traits that Filipinos possess. No matter how much they have in their wallets, they always would be happy to give something to their friends and family, even to some strangers.
As a service that has a big heart for Filipinos, Smiles Mobile Remittance would like to reciprocate this practice by providing financial assistance to impoverished families in the Philippines during the Christmas season, through its ‘One Million Smiles’ Program.
For 100 days, the Smiles Philippines Team and its customers, along with the help of the local government unit in the Philippines, will conduct donation drives for 100 families in the Philippines who are experiencing financial difficulties. Smiles’ customers who send money to the Philippines from September 15 to December 25, 2023, will automatically be part of this initiative. A ‘Donor of the Day’ will be drawn from all those who remitted during the previous day and this person will be rewarded with 500 Smiles points for their support.
Smiles Mobile Remittance invites you to participate in this initiative. To follow this program, follow the Smiles Mobile Remittance Philippines Facebook fan page. Get the Smiles App and start donating to our fellow kababayans.