The pandemic is now part of our everyday lives, meaning that normal things like Christmas caroling or simply gathering in a big group may not be possible yet.
With the Philippines celebrating the world’s longest Christmas season–starting September– so it’s no surprise that we have no shortage of Yuletide traditions to brag about. But due to COVID-19, many of us ended up aching for the things we used to do pre-pandemic times. Five Filipinos reveal to My Pope Philippines what Christmas traditions they miss the most.
Christmas traditions: Family Reunions
Lockdowns, travel restrictions, and social distancing norms have surely altered how we celebrate Christmas.
Always the main event for many Filipino families, Noche Buena, reunites a whole clan together — from the grandparents to the apos, and to even extended members of the family — over Christmas games and staple dishes: spaghetti, ham, and queso de bola.
And those are the things Vetina and Fei miss the most.
“Nami-miss ko gatherings ng pamilya, mga pag-uwi ng province, travel kahit out-of-town lang. Sa reunions kasi, bukod sa food, nandun yung kwentuhan, chikahan sino na may asawa, and human touch,” Vetina shares. (Read: IATF: Religious Gatherings Now Allowed Under GCQ Areas)
“Yung bonding and reunion ng buong family kapag Christmas na, magkakasama mag-celebrate tapos minsan aabot pa ng New Year. Kapag kami nila mommy [at] daddy minsan babyahe papuntang probinsya para dun naman maki-celebrate pero di na pwede ngayon, kaya medyo sad na disappointed,” Fei adds.
Christmas traditions: Simbang Gabi
In the Philippines, Simbang Gabi is celebrated at dawn, when roosters crow, hence the name “Misa de Gallo” or “Mass of the rooster.”
However, due to COVID-related concerns, some opted to miss in-church masses and just watch the masses via live streams instead. (Read: 3 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Simbang Gabi)
“Dati ang aalalahanin mo lang is yung aso sa kanto ng street nyo kung paano ka makakapuntang simbahan. Ngayon, nakakatakot na makisalamuha kahit kakilala mo yung mga ka-church mo, hindi mo rin masasabi kung sino ang may dalang virus, kaya hindi na rin nakaka-attend ng simbang gabi,” Lean shares.
Christmas traditions: Watching MMFF
The Metro Manila Film Festival which usually runs from December 25 to New Year’s Day, has also been part of the Filipinos’ tradition over the years, with families braving the cinema queues just to score tickets for the films they were looking forward to watching.
Maica is no stranger to this tradition.
“We get to enjoy and support our local films while munching popcorns with other families in the movie theater. I like it that way kasi ewan ko ba, parang mas festive yung feeling pag maraming tao sa paligid mo tapos nagse-share kayo ng iisang moment habang nanonood sa sinehan,” she explains.
Christmas tradition: Monito Monita
As an ode to the season of gift-giving, Filipinos crafted their own version of exchanging gifts called “Monito Monita.”
Like Secret Santa, Monito Monita is usually done among a group of officemates and classmates. However, as schools stay closed and some companies choose to remain under work-from-home arrangements, the tradition has been temporarily halted — at least for some, like Efren.
“Nami-miss ko yung vibes ng Christmas nung wala pang pandemic, yung saya kapag monito monita kami ng workmates ko sa office kung saan nakakalimutan mo panandalian yung stress dahil meron kayong nilaan na oras para dun,” Efren shares. (Read: The Five Best Gifts for a Meaningful Christmas)
“Nakaka-miss din yung paggala sa mga mall at parke para makita yung mga naglalakihang Christmas tree at magagarbong ilaw na walang iniisip na sakit na maaari mong makuha,” he adds.