Countdown to Christmas

The Philippines is one of Asia’s most populous countries and primarily a Christian nation where approximately a large percent of its citizens are devout Catholics. That being said, the Filipino community is widely known to have unique way of celebrating religious holidays.
Christmas is perhaps the most awaited season for everyone. In some countries, preparations take place a few weeks before Christmas day; however in the Philippines just as the “ber” months start, Filipinos are already preparing for Christmas. As longer nights and cool evening breeze set in, the countdown to Christmas begins.
Colorful holiday lights brighten up the cities at night. Christmas songs are played in malls crowded with people who start to shop for gifts, while some prefer to stroll and simply take pleasure in the colorful decorations. People flock to Christmas bazaars for the pre-holiday sale.
Streets and parks are decorated with parols—the Filipino’s traditional Christmas lanterns. Huge Christmas trees, beautifully adorned, are a sight to behold in malls, city parks and office buildings.
Various events like Christmas concerts or fundraising activities are set. Food markets are now open especially at night during weekends where local favorite snacks and delicacies like the seasons’ specials—bibingka and puto bumbong, are sold.
Families start buying few groceries like the traditional ham and queso de bola, to be served at the Noche Buena, the traditional Christmas Eve feast held after the midnight mass.
Filipinos look forward to the Simbang Gabi, a series of nine dawn masses held at night or as early as 4am which begins on December 16 and ends on the midnight of December 24.
In the country, it is not unusual to see some of these preparations as early as October. But these pre-Christmas festivities aren’t just about the bright lights and shopping sale.
Christmas time depicts the Filipinos’ strong family ties and religious devotion. Friends find time to have dinner together and afterwards, take a stroll and enjoy the many beautiful sights.
Putting up the Christmas trees and decorating homes create a harmonious relationship with the members of the family.
Children learn the true essence of Christmas through the joy of giving to the less fortunate and taking part in traditions like caroling with friends, and attending the Simbang Gabi with the family. This is the time of the year when families come together despite the distance and busy schedules.
Christmas, among other festivals, is indeed the longest celebrated in the Philippines.
Behind all the vibrant festivals, magnificent light displays and other events, the countdown to Christmas has become a tradition and a way for the Filipino community to strengthen its faith and bond.

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