Christmas Time, Already?
I came home yesterday evening and was shocked to find the house covered in garland, outdoor lights and a host of other Christmas decorations. I was shocked, but not for the reason most of you might think.
Coming through the door, my littlest one rushed me like Dino on the Flintstones and grabbed me around the knees.
“Daddy! Daddy! Come see the Christmas tree!”
Sarah’s only a few months past three, so she probably doesn’t remember much of last Christmas, and nothing of her first two. She took my hand and enthusiastically pulled and led me into the living room where, sure enough, there it was, just as it looks in the picture. What shocked me was that it took so long for all the Christmas stuff to get put up this year.
‘It’s about time,’ I thought.
I couldn’t believe it when I heard my first Christmas carol on a local radio station back in 2002, the year I first got here, and it was just the first week of September.
‘Surely, it’s a joke!’ came to mind.
But no, once the “…ber” months arrive—you know, September, October, and so on—THAT is when the Christmas season effectively arrives in the Philippines. And truthfully, it doesn’t thrill me in the least. I’ve always been a bit of a scrooge anyway, and over here I am even more cynical and less enthused over the so-called Holiday Season.
Obviously, it lasts much too long for my tastes. It’s long enough in the US where for most people it starts the day after Thanksgiving, the last Thursday in November. But in the Phils, it seems interminable. It’s a good thing ALL Christmas trees here are artificial, otherwise they’d have to replace them at least twice before the big day.
Another problem I have is the unhesitatingly unembarrassed way some will ask for “their Christmas.” It’s undignified, but folks do it and start “dropping hints,” if you can call them that, from the time the season begins. I find myself avoiding going out from a week or two before the 25th until the day after, mostly because I start feeling so guilty about not having everyone’s “Christmas.”
What I do now is budget about $200 every December to hand over to the various peripheral people in my life such as the guards in my subdivision, the folks who manage my gym, the guys at the gas station; you know, people like that. I buy a box of Christmas cards and put 500 pesos, about $10, in with each one. But once the last card is gone, I start hiding.
I’ve thought about why the season starts so early here. Comparing it to our traditions in the States, I think I have an answer. Although the Philippines has more official holidays, including the “snap holidays” the president constantly announces whenever she feels like giving herself a three-day weekend, it seems that most people just see them as days off with no real underlying meaning. Sure, they have their Independence Day, Memorial Day and All Souls Day, but I’ve noticed they don’t really have any impact on people’s consciousness.
Back home, our holidays clearly define the beginning and end of the divisions of our year. Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer; July 4th, Independence Day, marks the middle; while Labor Day marks its end, and the beginning of school. Halloween, while not a holiday, nevertheless is remarkable enough that everyone looks forward to it and the fun and entertainment that it brings to our lives. Thanksgiving is a big one; without a doubt it signals the start of Christmas Season, and it traditionally brings families together and causes us to thank God for our blessings. And so it goes on… all the way through Christmas and New Years.
No, here Christmas overwhelms ALL holidays to the point that it seems like it is the ONLY holiday. Easter is fully appreciated in the Philippines and is given its full religious significance, and for me, it is my favorite holiday over here, mostly because it doesn't involve fireworks! New Years is like an afterthought to Christmas, where they get to set off millions of firecrackers, but that’s about it. What New Years really marks is the beginning of the countdown ……. to the NEXT Christmas!