Christmas starts as early as September in the Philippines. As a happy, ecstatic, and extravagant bunch — we Filipinos don’t only see Christmas as the eve of the 25th, but as the whole four months of September to December, a.k.a the “Ber” months. Usually, we welcome this season by partaking in annual traditions and festivities. Each family here has a tradition or festivity of their own — making parols, putting up holiday-themed decor, having reunions, spending nights of prayer in church, and enjoying warm wraps of bibingka or puto bumbong among many others.
Our family has a couple of special traditions as well, some of which are quite unique compared to our Filipino neighbors.
We spend most of our holidays at the chilly highlands of Baguio City. During then, we prefer to keep everything simple, cozy, and minimal. A well-adorned tree with presents underneath, sparkling blue and yellow lights, fuzzy red socks, poinsettia-printed curtains and pillowcases, and a few shiny mistletoes here and there were enough for us to feel the essence and warmth of the season. We also scatter wooden bowls of potpourri, scented candles, and fragrance oils all around — making the refreshing scents of coffee, cinnamon, chocolate, and peppermint envelop our humble home’s air, scents that take me back to the pure and joyful Christmases of my childhood.
Amongst all these, perhaps our most memorable tradition — one that truly makes me feel the spirit of the holidays — is our little Yuletide playlist.
My mom and dad have always been fond of 50’s-60’s blues and jazz. They would always brighten up simple days by playing their beloved tunes on the radio, and they would devoutly play a short list of their favorite old classics from the first evening of December to the midnight of the 25th — songs that now serve as an endearing reminder of our happiest Christmases as a family. To this day, me and my siblings still think of the names Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald as synonymous to the sweet, mellow, and wistful spirit of the holidays.
Those days have passed, and the times are changing. A year ago, we merrily spent our holidays without a thought of what the coming year would bring, with no way of knowing that things would happen as they are happening today — but here we are. For a while now, we’ve been living life with a constant reminder of its futility and impermanence. It is as if we’re stuck in a dark tunnel without a twinkle of light in its end, and it is during times like these when we are in dire need of a certain gift — one given to everyone, both to the suffering and the prosperous, in the wake of Christ’s birth — hope.
Although our holidays this year will lack the merriment of family gatherings and festive celebrations, may we still continue to bask in its joy, essence, and spirit through the little things — the songs and carols, the dancing lights, the homemade delicacies, the cold evening air, and the hymns of praise.
A Merry Simple Christmas to everyone…