[874호 13면, 발행일 : 2017년 12월 11일(월)]
“Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!” says the big old man in red. Christmas is just around the corner. Have you started putting up your Christmas trees already? Here in Korea, as I have observed, Christmas is more of a commercialized holiday. Most of the Christmas decorations can only be seen at department stores and shopping centers, but I rarely see Christmas in the very hearts of the people in here. As someone coming from the country that has the longest Christmas celebration in the world (not exaggerating here!), the Philippines, I feel a little sad that Christmas isn’t given that much value and importance here. I feel like, Korea is missing something big and truly special. What is Christmas in the Philippines like? The Philippines starts Christmas in September. It’s quite common and expected to begin hearing Christmas songs being played in most radio stations and at shopping malls even before the Halloween season. Thinking about Christmas makes every Filipino happy, giddy and excited, especially the kids. We start doing a countdown, like how many days left before December 25 arrives, and we take Christmas shopping very seriously. What do we shop for Christmas? Aside from Christmas decors, lanterns and lights, we buy gifts for the people that matter to us. We also buy special food that we need for our “Noche Buena” or the Christmas Eve midnight dinner with our families. Families in their homes stay awake until 12 midnight to greet each other “Merry Christmas!” open presents that they’ve received and then proceed to the Noche Buena meal. It is such a memorable holiday for every member of the family! Christmas parties are also thrown everywhere – at schools, in the offices, even in the neighborhood plaza or basketball courts, organized by fellow neighbors. Speaking of neighborhoods, there are also those children singing Christmas carols that go around your village. They go door to door, serenading residents with festive songs, then they’ll greet you “Merry Christmas!” and then ask for some coins. Kinda same like what trick-or-treating kids do on Halloween, except that they’re asking for candy. At schools, Christmas is also felt strongly. Students and teachers decorate their classrooms together to feel the Yuletide spirit. When I was in elementary, I remember we used to have a one-month exchange gift with the whole class. We exchanged gifts once a week in a month, having a theme for each week. For example, this week, our gifts must be something sweet / something funny / something whatever. We had to do that before our Christmas class party. It was so much fun and exciting! Anyway, amusement parks also start to attract more and more visitors during this time of the year. And again, non-stop Christmas songs are being played. Not just that, even TV shows go Christmas-themed! And people become extra friendly, extra nice, extra cheerful and extra generous.
We may not have snow where we live, but without a doubt, the Philippines is the merriest country before, during and after December!
Give yourself the chance to visit the Philippines this winter vacation and experience something you will never forget!
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