by Clyde Ericson Nolasco
As August ends, we can already see Jose Mari Chan memes popping up on our social media news feeds reminding us that the -ber months are here; and for the Filipinos, it is Christmas season once again.
But is it Christmas already?
The Philippines is known for celebrating the longest Christmas. We celebrate this well-loved occasion as soon as the -ber months enter, which is September 1, and ends on “Three Kings” that falls on the first Sunday of January. Imagine that!
As soon as September kicks in, you can already hear Mariah Carey belting “All I want for Christmas is you...” or our homegrown Jose Mari Chan singing “Christmas in our Hearts.” Along with this, malls and major city roads start to light up with flashing Christmas lights and decorations.
Culture and Family
Filipinos celebrating Christmas as early as September seem not to have any concrete historical background. However, sociologists would give us a lot of reasons why we do so.
December 25 happens after the rainy months when southwest monsoons or typhoons have already ravaged the islands. Thus Christmas becomes an opportunity to express gratitude to God for those who survived.
On the other hand, Antonio Carbayas and Fides Castillo noted in their study in 2020 that Filipinos celebrate Christmas beyond popular religious tradition.
The archipelago is a Catholic country considering that there are roughly around 85,470,000 Catholics, which is 81% of the total population. This number does not include yet the Born Again Christians who also believe in Christmas.
But beyond faith and as a religious practice, Carbayas and Fides mentioned that FIlipinos celebrate Christmas the longest because of our deep regard for culture and family.
The preparation and Christmas itself is full of colorful rituals and traditions. Aside from the western Christmas trees, lights and Belen, we are also fond of our lanterns inspired by the Star of Bethlehem. We put them up as early as September. We sing Christmas carols, especially those in Tagalog. We save and budget our bonuses to have a sumptuous Noche Buena and we attend the Misa de Gallo, a nine-day novena mass in preparation for the birth of Jesus.
Also, we love Christmas celebrations because it fosters family-relations. We are known for our close family ties. Hence, we use this Yuletide season as an excuse to gather as one big family with our relatives. We would also have classmates and friends reunion as well. We exchange gifts with each other. We play games. We enjoy the food together. And we regard Joseph, Mary and Jesus as the model family. And all the prepping would start as the -ber months begin.
Feasts within the -ber months
Liturgically, the Christmas season does not start until it’s the 25th of December. More so, September, October and November (sometimes only some weeks of November) are still in the Ordinary Time.
In addition, we need to go through the season of Advent first before we reach the much-awaited Christmas season. (https://www.dominusest.ph/post/why-can-t-we-wait-for-2021)
The -ber months - September, October, November and even the first weeks of December - hold notable feasts that are very dear to us.
These months open with the Nativity of Mary, our dear Mother (8), one of the only three birthdays we commemorate in our Liturgical calendar. On the 14th of September, we exalt the salvific power of Jesus who gave up His life on the Cross followed by the memorial of the Sorrowful Mother on the 15th. This month ends as we celebrate the feasts of the evangelist St. Matthew (21), the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael (29) and of St. Jerome (30), the saint who translated the Bible into Latin, the Vulgate.
More so, September is designated by Pope Francis as the Season of Creation, a movement to remind us of our stewardship roles towards our Mother Earth.
October is considered as the Month of the Holy Rosary.
With this, we celebrate the Feast of the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary every October 7. All the same, October days are filled with a lot of saints to commemorate, such as Therese of the Child Jesus (1), the Guardian Angels (2), St. Francis of Assisi (4), St. Teresa of Avila (15), St. Luke the Evangelist (18), St. John Paul the Great (22), and Sts. Simon and Jude, the Apostles (28).
The eleventh month of the year is dedicated to the souls in Purgatory. We offer prayers for our loved ones who have gone ahead of us.
Thus, we open the month with All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls day (2). Two faithful days are spent with prayers to the saints and for our beloved who are not with us anymore. Within the month, we remember St. Martin de Porres (3), St. Charles Borromeo (4), St. Leo the Great (10), the Presentation of Mary (21) and St. Andrew the Apostle (30). Finally, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King towards the end of this month.
The first weeks of December which fall within Advent also hold significant days such as the memorial of St. Francis Xavier (3), St. Ambrose (7), St. Juan Diego (9), the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (12) and St. John of the Cross (14).
But what completes the highlights of the initial weeks of December before Christmas is the Solemnity of Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on December 8, a day of obligation for Catholics.
Christmas in our Hearts
As we look forward to celebrating the season of Christmas, may we not get blinded by loud parties and stressful preparations.
True Christmas only happens to those who can see Jesus in others and even in the simplest days of our lives.
“Let's sing Merry Christmas
And a happy holiday
This season may we never forget
The love we have for Jesus
Let Him be the One to guide us
As another new year starts
And may the spirit of Christmas
Be always in our hearts”
The Youth Ministry of Holy Cross Parish Makati performing a blacklight presentation of Christmas in our Hearts of Jose Mari Chan