Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Traditions in Philippines « Christmas Spirit

Christmas Traditions in Philippines « Christmas Spirit: "A brief history of the country > The Republic of the Philippines is a geographically large island nation located in southeast Asia. With its 7106 islands, it has a great diversity of terrains and also languages. Despite that, it is a predominantly Christian country, and about 90% catholic. The Philippines, named after King Philip of Spain, was a Spanish colony for more than three centuries up until 1896, at which time it gained independence with the help of the Americans, only for the Americans to assert control themselves and govern it as a colony. The Philippines is now an independent country, and has a rapidly growing population closing in on 100 million.

Due to it’s long Christian traditions, Christmas is a very important part of the Filipino culture, and the Philippines has one of the most interesting traditions in the world of observing the Christmas holiday. They are noted for having the longest Christmas holiday in the Christian world, sometimes beginning as early as September and not ending until the first Sunday in January, Three Kings’ Day.

A friend, who has been living there now for five years, has said that he has seen this early Christmas at first hand, and this year, Santa Claus made his first television appearance in a promotion starting in July!

However, the official start of the Christmas holiday in the Republic of the Philippines is December 16th, when the “misas de aguinaldo”, or “Gift Masses”, begin extremely early in the morning every day for nine consecutive days. These masses are very important to millions of people in the Philippines. Sometimes these masses may even start as early as 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning. Those devout Christians are encouraged to attend each mass for those nine days, not missing any as a demonstration of their faith and devotion.

On December 24th, the Filipino people also celebrate “la misa de gallo”, or the “Mass of the Rooster”. The rooster is used to refer to the rooster crowing at the sun at dawn. The “misa de gallo” is the final mass of the nine consecutive early morning masses, and is the official start of the Christmas day.

La Noche Buena, the Christmas feast, is an integral part of the Christmas holiday in the Philippines. The star of the Filipino Christmas meal is the giant ball of cheese and the juicy Christmas ham, but only for the few who can afford it. In many parts of the Philippines, in the run up to Christmas, children roam from house to house singing carols, just as children do in other parts of the world. Due to the poverty level, those extra few pesos can make a big difference to a many a Filipino family.

The Christmas celebration continues all the way through New Years Eve and New Years Day to January 6, which is the Three Kings’ Day. It’s party time and fireworks on Christmas Eve and new Year’s Eve, when people have fun and, apart from the fireworks, make loud noises to celebrate the New Year, as well as ward off any bad spirits that may be trying to enter. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, Filipino families get together and partake in a New Year’s feast together to celebrate the coming of a brand new year. This is a time of great superstition in this country, children are seen jumping up at midnight in hopes that they will grow taller in the new year.

All in all, Christmas is more religious and less material than in other parts of the world, but I wonder if that would be the case if people were not so poor.

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