Some random notes I had jotted down about Christmas:
- Filipinos love Christmas. Filipinos are well-known for celebrating the longest Christmas season, with decorations and Christmas songs starting to become common around September. The most well-known meme around this time is about the song Christmas in our Hearts by Jose Mari Chan, which is one of the songs malls often play during the season. Many memes leading up to December or even earlier imply Jose Mari Chan preparing to strike on unsuspecting Filipinos.
- Traffic in Metro Manila, already pretty terrible, often gets much worse in December. I usually take lots of days off (sometimes even the whole month) to avoid this. The malls are jam packed as well, same as the roads. It gets much better right after Christmas, in the week leading up to New Year. That week between Christmas and New Year is probably the second lightest week in the year traffic-wise (second only to whenever Holy Week is).
- A Filipino-only tradition are the so-called Simbang Gabi, a series of early morning or late-night masses that many Catholics try to complete from Dec 16 to Dec 24. I’m an RC, but I dislike going to these because there’s always so many people. I don’t think I’ve gone to one of these in around two decades.
- An annoying thing, at least in Metro Manila, is the Metro Manila Film Festival. While I have nothing against Filipino films even though I don’t watch them, the fact that they are given a monopoly during the last week of December means any big blockbuster foreign films often get pushed to January (we don’t have Bumblebee yet for that reason), and smaller Christmas releases often just won’t be shown in the country. It would be significantly less annoying if the MMFF actually included quality films instead of whatever hot garbage Vic Sotto and/or Vice Ganda are giving the public.
- People who live in subdivisions get an upsurge of roving bands of kids who sing Christmas carols (sometimes badly) somewhere between 6-9pm every night in December. They appear more often as Christmas day draws near. We rarely ever give them anything. The sheer volume is a problem. It’s not like American Halloween where it’s one night in a year, this is every night for a month. (Actually, some of these kids sometimes try this during Oct/Nov going “Happy Halloween” instead of “Merry Christmas!”, but that’s much rarer.) Sometimes even while I’m walking around the subdivision they’ll come up to me saying “Namamasko po!” (only in the Philippines is Christmas a verb), which annoys me as it kind of smacks of mendicacy. Maybe it would be different if some of the kids’ groups weren’t obviously like they just randomly got together and decided to see if they could get some money from low effort carolling. We usually end up ignoring the doorbells around the time when there are carollers, but that seemed unwise. I suggested we just put a sign saying something to the effect of “PATAWAD! BAWAL MANGAROLING!” but I’m told that wasn’t nice or something lol
- Most companies in Metro Manila hold some kind of Christmas party in December, so most events places are booked, good luck to anyone trying to arrange their Christmas party late. Common Christmas party fare include lechon, gift exchanges, raffles, and the dignity of new company employees “required” to render a performance number.
- I think (but don’t have the statistics to back me up on this) that petty crime also has an uptick during December. Both times I’ve been the victim of pickpocketing were around this time. It makes sense - people are more desperate during Christmas, and the crowds make it easier for pickpockets.
- Most of these are from a middle-class Metro Manila experience of course, since that’s what I know. Even the poorer families try to get into the spirit, with some even taking on debts just to be able to have a decent Christmas celebration, which for me is a bad idea. I think there’s a lot of pressure from society to have “proper” celebrations, but if you’re hard up, even a simply Christmas dinner at Jollibee should be enough.