‘Christmas-crazy’ Pinoys in Swiss news

Well, what do you know? The Philippines was featured recently in a widely read Swiss tabloid for its “Christmas-crazy” people and traditions.

20 Minuten, a highly circulated free tabloid which comes in German and French, ran a news article on how Filipinos celebrate the Christmas season with so much galore.

Here’s a rough translation (from German to English) of the news piece written by Marlies Seifert:

Christmas on the endless palm beach

Whoever escapes from Christmas hype may choose sunnier climates — why not the Philippines? Wrong! You will hardly find any other people as Christmas-crazy as the Filipinos.

While many people in this country (Switzerland) are reluctant to get into the Christmas mood, the Filipinos tend to sing Christmas songs from the middle of October onwards. Classics such as “White Christmas” are heard through the loudspeakers of jeepneys mixed with the noise of the traffic.

Parols (lanterns) or capiz lamps complement the lights and colors of the cityscape. More than 80 percent of the Filipino population are Catholics, and Christmas is the undisputed highlight of the year. With the Paskuhan Village (Christmas Village), one can celebrate Christmas all year round at this Christmas theme park.

When it comes to Christmas shopping, Metro Manila is the place to be. Forget Hongkong and Bangkok! Cheaper prices and giant malls make Manila the new shopping paradise of Asia.

Yet there is something for the Christmas grouch beyond remedy. Just dip into the sea; it’s time for scuba-diving. Island hopping is easy by boat in order to discover the underwater world.

Of course, this is already old news to us Filipinos and to those who are familiar with the Philippine culture. It seems that Filipinos are incredibly addicted to celebrating Christmas in style, even though it means blowing the family budget — many times over.

Serve that lechon (roasted pig). Join the karaoke-singing challenge at the family reunion. Hop from one office party to another. Buy gifts like there’s no tomorrow. Exchange presents and defy all signs of global recession. Meet all the ninongs and ninangs (godfathers and godmothers) and amass a truckload of gifts. Hie off to the mall decked with Yuletide decors. Watch Manila Filmfest cinema offerings. Go to a Christmas concert of a favorite OPM artist. Dance all night. In other words: eat, drink, and be merry till you drop.

But what is not mentioned in the news article is that Christmas in the Philippines is the stressful season when cash-strapped community workers, church laymen, charity organization employees, and complete strangers (synonym: beggars) — yes, you read it right — suddenly appear on your doorstep to leave holiday money envelopes for you to, um, fatten up. It’s all part of the Filipino Christmas celebration, this forced giving in the name of pakikisama (good will, Pinoy-style).

Christmas is also the season when impoverished street children are out on the streets in full force to greet all motorists a merry Christmas; the oral greeting is the cue for people to search their wallets for loose change. Motorists usually dread such moments, when a red light at a junction means the ‘Christmas kids’ are coming to tap on your car windows.

These boys and girls would also hop on jeepneys and sing Christmas carols almost on automatic mode with their handmade maracas (trust the Filipinos to be resourceful and creative). And it’s somewhat the “duty” of the paying passengers to make a donation, according to what the heart dictates (in these tough financial times, the heart would probably be unwilling).

So, it’s probably apt to say that Filipinos are indeed Christmas-crazy — from the struggling have-nots, who can hardly make both ends meet, to the carefree middle-class and upper-class folks, who have the means to throw parties that seem to promote gluttony at its finest.

The merry-making is almost always contagious. No one can really escape the holiday hype in the Philippines. It’s everywhere, economic crisis notwithstanding.