Yeah, Christmas starts here on September. We call them as the "-ber months" (September, October, November and December) and usually Christmas ends here on February - after the Chinese New Year.
No one really knows how it started, but they say that in the 17th Century, a priest combined this Catholic celebration with the Natives thanksgiving celebration. Uh, I don't if the story was true, but tradition dictates that the Filipinos have the longest Christmas celebration.
As early as September, you will start hearing Christmas carols and Christmas songs being played on the radio or even on some large department stores. You may even be surprised to see some stores getting dressed up for Christmas as early as September.
Also, Christmas decoration will start to flood the sidewalks as early as September. Christmas lanterns (that we call parol) of different shapes and sizes are displayed, together with the "what's new" in this years Christmas decorations.
A Colorful Christmas
Since the Philippines is a tropical country, we don’t have a White Christmas, but we have a colorful one. By the middle of September and October, people will start buying those colorful lights to decorate the inside and the outside of their houses.
Christmas customs in the Philippines are a mixture of the West and the Filipino traditions. So people in the Philippines have Santa Claus (or 'Santa Klaus'), Christmas trees, colorful tinsels... but in a traditional touch.
That's why don't be surprised if you see Christmas decorations that are made from native materials like bamboo and rattan.
The traditional parol was made of paper called Papel de Hapon (Japanese Paper), but the material is flimsy and very flammable. Now we have parols that are made of plastic.
Speaking of parol, this lantern symbolizes the Star of Bethlehem - the star that guided the Wise Men to where Jesus was born.
Here Comes Santa!
The typical Santa you find in this article was popularized by Coca-Cola. The original Santa is, well... not very child-friendly, so let us thank Michigan-born illustrator Haddon Sundblom for the new Santa look. His painting of Santa Clause for Coca-Cola have spread the idea of Santa as a warm, happy character with rosy cheeks, a white beard, twinkling eyes and laughter lines.
[Note: According to Snopes.com, the illustrations of lavishly bearded Santas (and his predecessors), showing figures clothed in red suits and red hats with white fur trimming, held together with broad black belts, were common long before Coca-Cola's first Sundblom-drawn Santa Claus advertisement appeared in 1931. - see: link. ]
The idea of Santa Clause came to the Philippine shores because of the Americans.
The "Krismas" Tree
Unlike those Christmas trees you find in the United State of America and Europe, the Philippine version of the Christmas Tree is well... nature-friendly. Most trees you will find here are made up of plastics, bamboo or rattan fibers and even recycled materials.
Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce.
It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree.
Now, for safety reasons, we use electronic lights instead of candles.
The Nativity Scene is not absent in every Filipino Christmas. By the way, do you know that it was St. Francis of Assisi who started this tradition?
The nativity scene created by St. Francis is described by St Bonaventure in his Life of Saint Francis of Assisi written around 1260. Staged in a cave near Greccio, St. Francis' nativity scene was a living one with humans and animals cast in the Biblical roles. Eventually, statues replaced human and animal participants, and static scenes grew to elaborate affairs with richly robed figurines placed in intricate landscape settings.
So what are you waiting for? Visit Parolan 2014 here in Farmer's Cubao and avoid the rush. Start filling up your holiday blues with a lot of Ho! Ho! Ho! You find all the decoration you're looking for in one place.
The Coca-Cola Company