By early January 2019, the last of the After Christmas sales are over. People were packing up their Christmas decorations for next year. There were even signs in my apartment building on how to properly dispose live Christmas trees. So you thought Christmas is over? Head to the Philippines. It’s still going on. On January 12, 2019, I arrived at Manila International Airport and I was surprised to see a three-story high Christmas tree in the airport lobby still lit up in all its yuletide glory.
Christmas-obsessed Filipinos launch their yuletide season in the so-called Ber months – September, October, November. The Philippines’ Christmas season is as visually resplendent as it is long. Hotel lobbies and many public places glisten with decorations worthy of a czar’s winter palace. Christmas parades feature full-blown floats. The Philippines stands out in Asia for being more than 90 percent Christian – mostly Catholic (National Public Radio NPR, December 2018). Evelyn Castillo, Bayanihan Foundation’s Philippine Liaison said that many people even extend the yuletide season until February 14, Valentines’ Day!
Evelyn took me to lunch at her favorite lunch spot, Kitchenitos Restaurant in Tacloban City, Leyte. Lo and behold the fast food restaurant was bedecked with Christmas decorations. They were still playing Christmas carols.
However, what I’m most surprised is how many Filipinos seems to have a healthy balance between the secular and spiritual at Christmas time. The yuletide season seem to be more than just Christmas shopping as many retailers in the US seem to emphasize. Whatever the Christmas season meant to people, the extended yuletide season in the Philippines from September to February seems to put people in a good mood.