A Merry and Blessed Christmas to you!

Merry Christmas!
So, how’s your Christmas so far? Did you celebrate Christmas with your family? If not, have you greeted them and everyone else around you? How’s your Noche Buena? Did you and your companions dine well? (Also, do you have a hang-over now from all that partying last night? I thought as much.) Did you complete your nine-day Simbang Gabi and made a wish? Did you play with firecrackers? (I hope not.)

It’s that time of the year again for us to spend quality with our loved ones, hear the traditional Dawn Masses, and spread good cheer to everyone. And yes, sing birthday greeting songs to our Lord Jesus Christ if you will. Yup, it’s his birthday, after all.

We Filipinos never grow tired of Christmas, simply because of the good things it represents for us. It’s actually nice that this year, Christmas Day landed on a Saturday, which makes the holiday more relaxing for some of us. (For all those working on Christmas Day, such as the security guards, call center agents and mall employees, and members of the media, my love goes out to you as well.)

Christmas will never be complete without the usual Noche Buena and holiday feasts. In my childhood I remember that our family would have the traditional bibingka and puto bumbong every Christmas Eve or after Mass. This is a traditional snack I never forgot to have for Christmas even as an adult. (Bonus points if they serve “salabat” or ginger tea.) Fruitcake? It’s been a while since I had one of those. Hint, hint. 
Our Noche Buena would consist of barbecues, fried chicken or fish, lechon kawali (deep fried pork, sometimes), cakes, fruits, and spaghetti. The best part of the holiday feast would be the leche flan and ube halaya, and Mom’s beans and homemade bread pudding (whose recipe she brought with her to heaven; God and the legions of angels and saints would be feasting on beans and pudding by now).

Gift giving is one of the biggest highlights of Christmas. Sure, gifts nowadays cost a lot of money, and we have to sacrifice a lot of time and effort to find the perfect stuff that we could give to our family/friends/co-workers/sweethearts/whatever, but seeing the joy in their faces when they do receive their gifts is something we can never grow tired of.

The most important part of Christmas in the Philippines is our reverence to the holiday’s religious significance. Filipinos have the longest Christmas celebration in the world, ushered in by the nine-day Simbang Gabi on December 16. Some areas also have the “panunuluyan,” the reenactment of the journey of Joseph and the pregnant Blessed Virgin Mary in search of lodging, and other religious events. Most of the time this is celebrated with the singing of Christmas carols and charity work, among others.

The Nativity by Charles-François Poerson, 1667

Christmas is a celebration for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Never mind how commercialized the Yuletide season is, or how people think of Santa Claus and the material matters of the holiday season more often. Christmas not only means paying respects to the child Jesus (especially if you’re a Catholic), or setting aside time to be good to others (one of the secular aspects of the holiday).

Christmas all boils down to sending our love to the world in commemoration of this holiday. Christmas is a time to share part of ourselves to everyone. Christmas is the season of giving, sharing, selflessness, love, and most of all, peace.

Peace be with you all. Again, Merry Christmas!

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