This nursy plays dirty and does it with pain...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas in the Philippines as I remember it

I don't know how many times in the past I have blurted out about my strange (or maybe not) feeling towards the holiday season. I have been living here in America much longer than I did back home, the Philippines. As Christmas season approaches I get progressively home sick, so badly sometimes that I almost go into depression... go figure!!! I don't think I have any reason. I have my entire immediate family here with me in the US. We, in fact almost always have had great Holiday celebrations.

Is it my inner self that tells me each year to look back at my past when scarcity was it, so that I can stay grounded and thankful for what I have now in my life??? Is it my longing to the nostalgia of my youth when life was not too complicated??? I can't tell you for sure.

I know that Philippines has very long Christmas celebration. The predominant religion is Catholicism, thus the activities are influenced by that. WIKIPEDIA described Christmas season in the Philippines so accurately and how I remembered it...
Misa de Gallo (Dec. 16-24) Traditionally, Christmas Day in the Philippines is ushered in by the nine-day dawn masses that start on December 16. Known as the Misa de Gallo (Rooster's Mass) in the traditional Spanish, and these masses are also more popularly known in Filipino as Simbang Gabi, or "Night Mass". The Simbang Gabi is the most important Filipino Christmas tradition.

These nine dawn Masses are also considered as a Novena by the Catholic and Aglipayan faithfuls. This refers to the Roman Catholic and Aglipayan practice of performing nine days of private or public devotion to obtain special graces. In some parishes, the Simbang gabi begins as early as four in the morning. Going to mass this early for nine consecutive days is meant to show the churchgoer's devotion to his faith and heighten anticipation for the Nativity of the Lord. In traditional Filipino belief, however, completing the novena is also supposed to mean that God would grant the devotee's special wish or favor.

After hearing Mass, Filipino families partake of traditional Philippine Christmas delicacies, either during breakfast at home or immediately outside the church, where they are sold. Vendors offer a wealth of native delicacies, including bibingka (rice flour and egg based cake, cooked using coals on top and under), puto bumbong (a purple sticky rice delicacy which is steamed in bamboo tubes, with brown sugar and coconut shavings as condiments), salabat (hot ginger tea) and tsokolate (thick Spanish cocoa).
Christmas Eve For Filipinos, Christmas Eve on ("Bisperas ng Pasko") December 24 is the much-anticipated Noche Buena -- the traditional Christmas Eve feast after the midnight mass. Family members dine together around 12 midnight on traditional Noche Buena fare, which includes: queso de bola (Span. literally "ball of cheese"; edam cheese), "Tsokolate" (hot chocolate drink) and hamon (Christmas ham), and some would open presents at this time.
In different provinces and schools throughout the Philippines, Catholic devotees also reenact the journey of Joseph and the pregnant Blessed Virgin Mary in search of lodging for the soon-to-be born Jesus Christ. This is the traditional Panunuluyan, also called Pananawagan and Pananapatan.
This street pageant is performed after dark on Christmas Eve, with the actors portraying Joseph and Mary going to pre-designated houses. They chant wika wika bang bang, a traditional folksong that is meant to wake up the owner of the house as the actors ask for lodging. But the couple (actors) are turned away by the owners, also through a song. Finally, Joseph and Mary make their way to the parish church where a simulated manger has been set up. The birth of Jesus is celebrated at midnight with the Misa de Gallo, together with hallelujahs and Christmas carols. Everybody celebrates this tradition happily yet solemnly.

Christmas Day in The Philippines is primarily a family affair. Prior to the ticking of 12 midnight on 25 December, Misa de Aguinaldo is being celebrated. It is usually attended by the whole family. Misa de Aguinaldo is the Holy Mass celebrated to signify the Birth of Jesus Christ, the Roman Catholic Church and Philippine Independent Church (Aglipayan) in the Philippines' main means of celebrating Jesus Christ's birth.
Misa de Aguinaldo is also celebrated at dawn or in the morning immediately after sunrise before 10 AM, this schedule is preferred by Filipinos who choose to celebrate Christmas Eve with a night-long celebration of Noche Buena.

Preferably in the morning, Filipino families visit members of the extended family, notably the elders in order to pay their respect. This custom has been an age-old tradition in the Philippines called Pagmamano, this is done by touching one's forehead to the elder's hand saying Mano Po. The elder then blesses the person who paid respect. Aguinaldo or money in the form of crisp, fresh-from-the-bank bills is given after the Pagmamano, most usually to younger children.
A Christmas Lunch usually follows after the Pagmamano. The lunch is heavily dependent upon the finances of the family. Rich families tend to prepare grand and glorious feasts that consist of Jamon de Bola, Queso de Bola, Lechon and other Filipino delicacies. Some poor families choose to cook simple meals, nevertheless still special. When the family is settled after the lunch, the exchange of gifts is usually done. Godparents are expected to give gifts or Aguinaldo to their godchildren.

When nigh time falls, members of the family usually take part in family talks while listening to favorite Christmas carols. Some may opt to have a glorious Christmas feast for dinner.


elyani said...

Wow...I would love to experience Christmas celebration in PI. It sounds like partying all month :) It's been a while since I did a 9 days Novena. I even often forgot to complete my 3 days Novena...hehehe...don't tell my priest about this! The Aguinaldo giving is like Angpao (ang = red, pao=packet) in Chinese New Year tradition. When I was a small kid, receiving angpao was something I look forward to. Christmas celebration in Indonesia is not that big. We do not have tradition to put up Christmas trees or gifts exchange, even though there are more and more shops selling plastic Christmas trees and all its knick knack now.

I myself prefer a simple Christmas decoration in my church village where they made the stable from bamboos and coconut leaves as the roof.

Happy Holidays to you and your family, and here's hoping you find a sweet hunky for yourself in your stocking this year.

momoftwo said...

Lovely decor!!! I remember those Christmases spent in PI. Simple but memorable. This post reminds me how life back then when we did not have enough but yet we're happy.

I remember those times when we can only eat apples, grapes and spaghetti only on Christmas and New Years. We would wake up early am for simbang gabi then looking forward to hot bibingka outside the church. Oh how I miss those days. I am hoping that one day my kids will be able to experience Christmas in the PI.

And yeah, Merry, merry Christmas NursyE! I wish you all the best :)

Belle said...

E, hope you had a wonderful Christmas with your family and friends even though our Christmas here is not near as fun as what we were accustomed to.