I am getting close to my first Christmas in Manila. The Filipinos note that the festive, Christmas season is found in any month that finishes with the letters “ber”. It’s true. Christmas carols have been heard across the shopping malls since September. Christmas decorations have been available for the same period and Christmas gift wrapping has been available in the large department stores such as Landmark for that period as well (and by gift wrapping I am not just referring to the paper itself but also for the minions to professionally wrap gifts for you).
The Philippines as a whole is a fairly devote, staunchly Catholic country although there are sizable numbers of those that belong to a Protestant Church as well as a significant Muslim population. Christmas and the Mass are very important then.
The other characteristic of this time of year is the Christmas party. Everywhere has one. Venues will be booked out for parties until about 10 pm each night after which they return to their normal line of business. Parties will be held by companies for their staff; condominium management for the residents (with a separate party for “helpers and drivers” of the residents); restaurants will hold parties for staff; even bars will have staff Christmas parties.
I have been to three parties so far this season and there is a common theme. Filipinos love to exchange gifts, play party games, win raffle or game prizes, sing, and dance. The gifts are normally valued around $10 and are generally unisex so randomly distributed. There are a number of games based around the gifts such as a white elephant game where you can swap gifts, another where gifts can be stolen (swapped when someone is not watching) and others where the giving of the gifts is randomized by some left-right movement routine.
At this time of year, office corridors and spare spaces are filled with staff members practicing their dance routines, rehearsing songs or just planning the party games that will be played.
Yes, Christmas in Manila is a fun time and I am enjoying it!