Although my Christmas was not a winter wonderland, the Filipino Christmas spirit is incredibly strong! My office had a huge Christmas party complete with an entire roasted pig and a competition featuring choreographed dance routines to Frozen’s ‘Let It Go’ and life size paper mâché snow penguins.
I also taught my host family how to make paper snowflakes and we currently have a proper winter blizzard hanging on our wall.
Leading up to Christmas you can hear sounds of carolers every night as it is tradition that children or school groups walk around the neighborhood singing door to door. While the festive sounds are cheerful, these carolers are not doing so for fun but for money, and it is expected that you give them a few coins when they finish. Also leading up to Christmas, many Catholics attend “Simbang Gabi” meaning “church night” because mass is held at 4am everyday for 9 or 10 days until Christmas.
However the real occasion is December 25. On New Years Eve we cooked a huge meal of spaghetti, chicken, pasta salad and ube jam (ube is a bright purple root crop native to the Philippines in a dish reminiscent of sweet potato pie filling). Then at 12am, the very moment Christmas arrived, Filipinos everywhere ate their Christmas feasts.
When I left the house on Christmas morning for my standard run, the streets seemed to be full of ‘trick-or-treaters’!? Christmas Day is very similar to American Halloween: children tote around bags and knock on doors asking more for money than candy, but both are acceptable gifts. And it was a very busy morning as I have never seen so many people walking about! I even had some small children join me on my run, at least for a few meters.
To make the day complete, I fell asleep watching fireworks from my bedroom window. Careful though, firework mishaps and malfunctions are the number one source of injuries during the holidays.