When it comes to Christmastime, Filipinos get right into the spirit.
In the Philippines, Christmas celebrations start as early as September, explained Ponoka resident Lavilla Tapel, who moved from the Philippines some years ago.
From September to December, Tapel jokingly calls those four months “the month of ber” to signify the last three letters of the months at this time.
“Mothers will set up the Christmas tree in September because they like their house decorated,” said Tapel, adding that the malls and schools do the same.
It’s a festive season with homes and buildings getting colourful and bright light decorations along with Christmas lanterns being found just about on every corner. Where Tapel grew up they had competitions for the best crafted lanterns.
“It looks very festive. Very colourful,” she said.
Decorating one’s house is relatively inexpensive, added Tapel, who says homes are decked out beautifully. Along with the fun season comes singing and enjoying time with family.
“The tree goes up as a family effort,” she said.
Kids get to see their godparents. “All of us have godparents that we visit during Christmas Day.”
“That’s one of the traditions that kids treasure when they grow up,” said Tapel.
Along with those visits, kids will go to their neighbours’ home and sing carols and there’s also a night mass before Christmas, called Simbáng Gabi. This is a devotional night mass celebrated by the Catholic Church.
Family and eating is a big part of this time of year and while turkey is one of the big menu items in Canada, in the Philippines it’s ham and roast pig.
There is also a traditional dinner called Nochebuena, which has roots in the Spanish traditions. It’s the meal that comes at midnight of Christmas Eve after the late evening mass. “That’s when people will eat the Christmas dinner.”
Tapel has lived in Canada for almost 20 years now and some of that tradition has changed; decorations now go up in November but the spirit of the season lives on with her family and friends.