This is an old picture of me playing Mary in a Christmas pageant in the Philippines. You see the hanging lanterns over my head? Those are called parols. They’re a beautiful part of the Filipino Christmas tradition.
As a child I was enthralled with Christmas. Every country had their tradition. As I look back on my favorite Christmas moments, though…so many of them were tied with traditions I enjoyed in the PI. Although I’d participated in Christmast pageants most of my life, it was this one that I look back on with the most fondness. I think it was that I liked the outfit…and ego liked that I finally had a lead role…Haha!
Where I’ve struggled with that Christmas feeling in Florida…thinking maybe snow on Christmas morning would fix it…I’d think back to my time in the Philippines and realize it isn’t the weather. It’s the people. I have an odd confession I’m going to make. Though I’ve celebrated Christmas my whole life…I hadn’t really heard about Santa until I was about 10. I learned about the baby Jesus and blessings and giving gifts of love during the holiday. Santa came when I moved to the states and went to public school.
I like that tradition, too, but I can’t help but think to so many of you who post stories about when your child realized there wasn’t a Santa or other things…and I’m kind of grateful that I never went through that kind of disillusionment. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying my mom’s way is right…and quite frankly, with all the commercialism of Santa everywhere…in malls, in school, etc…it’d be tough to go as long as I did without knowledge of the wonder and magic of Santa.
But back to the Philippines. The magic of Christmas comes to the Philippines through a lot of Spanish based traditions. Most Spanish/Hispanic cultures are familiar with “Noche Buena”. The part of the Philippines I grew up in treated it almost like a neighborhood block party…gates and doors were thrown open and everyone was invited. Food abounded and you just went from house to house eating. Seriously! It was a time for family and friends to celebrate. In fact, most of our church would also show up at our house, so it was always full. We kids would also wander to the neighbors houses…it was a wonderful time with awesome foods.
My first time going out and Christmas Carrolling was also in the Philippines. My mom belonged to a singing group through the church and they’d go house to house to sing…and the proceeds would go toward sponsoring their trips to tour around the country singing at other churches. We kids were included in that, too! In fact, we sang Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, complete with all the little childlike embellishments that go with the song. A few kids between the ages of 4-10…I’m sure it was adorable. Now, looking back I wonder how we didn’t question who Santa was when singing it…LOL! (Then again, we were too busy getting a kick out of yelling “like a light bulb”.)
People in the Philippines really just loved on each other and supported each other. Christmas was all about giving there…maybe that’s what I enjoyed so much. It was focused on friendships, sharing and giving. To this day my favorite thing to do is to try to find gifts that will touch the heart…not so much about the spending. I will always look back on my time there with warmth and love. And I’ll remember the beauty of Parols and Christmas Trees and Holiday Pageants with a smile.
Have you ever spent Christmas in other countries? Do any of your holiday traditions stem from other cultures? What do you love about this time of year?
And now I leave you with my favorite Filipino Christmas Carol…I still remember learning to sing it!