Welcoming “Ber” Months in the Philippines: Filipino Traditions during the Holiday Season

Photo from Flickr
Photo taken by Dindin Lagdameo from flickr.com

How do Filipinos welcome the “ber” months?

Although there are other significant occasions before we celebrate Christmas, Filipinos believe that the holiday season begins as soon as the “ber” months signal the cold season. It begins in September, some even as early as August and concludes in January.

In the Philippines, the “ber” months are renowned. Even powerful typhoons and bizarre national occurrences can’t break the Filipino spirit. It’s that time of year when everyone set up their Christmas décor and wants to have a good time and, of course, eat and drink. Let’s take a peek at some Filipino habits and traditions that make the Christmas season truly joyous during the “ber” months.

Very Early Christmas Celebrations

Christmas time in the Philippines starts a lot earlier than most countries – it is recognized to be the longest Christmas season in the world for at least three months, starting on the first day of September.

The minute September arrives, you will see most establishments transform into Christmas villages. Typically, they will start filling the place with Christmas décor, and as the calendar advances, typically by October or November, they decorate the surroundings with captivating Christmas lights and place a grand Christmas tree at the center.

On top of decorating, playing Christmas music at the beginning of September is not unusual in the Philippines. As you are strolling inside the mall or any other establishment, you can hear Jose Mari Chan and Mariah Carey’s voices on the speakers, singing their famous songs “Christmas In Our Hearts” and “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

For the family oriented Filipinos, four months before Christmas day, you could already feel the holiday spirit in the Philippines.

Exploring Filipino Christmas Traditions

Aside from starting the holiday season early, there are a lot of Christmas traditions that Filipinos have. Here are some of the known Filipino Christmas traditions.

The Most Famous Simbang Gabi

The true Christmas countdown begins on December 16, nine days before Christmas. Since we are primarily Catholic, Misa de Aguinaldo (masses celebrated at dawn) or Simbang Gabiis part of our Christmas celebration. Filipinos look forward to getting their hands on bibingka and puto bumbong, rice delicacies associated with the Christmas season, dipped in warm baterol.

In the Philippines, Christmas is unquestionably more enjoyable. The best part of a Filipino Christmas is that it begins so early that people prepare for it while also preparing for Halloween trick or treating. The holidays are pleasant, but the months of preparation leading up to Christmas make them even more enjoyable and meaningful.

Photo from Pampanga Directory
Photo taken by WILMER LICUP from flickr.com

Christmas Lights

Filipino Christmas Lanterns

A Filipino Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a parol, a star-shaped lantern, hanging by the door or window of every house, regardless of its size or modesty. More than the festivity, the lanterns, which has been part of a Filipino’s life, is said to symbolize hope and prosperity.

Parols hold deep significance in our Christmas traditions. It can be seen in the annual December festivities where schools host parol-making competitions and orchestrate Christmas parades, where students proudly march while clutching their lit-up parols.

The parol dominates most streets, whether you have an affordable house or a lavish home, inspired by the star that guided the three kings during the Nativity. As they place holiday ornaments on the Christmas tree, the kids are excited. For DIY Christmas projects, some people even embrace their inner Martha Stewart.

Shining, Shimmering Lights and Ancient Treasures

For Filipinos, Christmas preparation includes dusting out ancient ornaments. Pulling old decorations from a box and rehanging them is a big deal for most Filipino families – it is a way for families to spend time as well.

Countless Parties are Organized

Time for Family Reunions

Filipinos are real professionals when it comes to Christmas preparations. As Christmas approaches, the number of social media groups in which you participate continues to rise. One group is discussing a high school reunion, and another is discussing a college reunion, while another is discussing a reunion with former coworkers. You’ve been planning and organizing your Christmas parties or reunion for weeks, and now you’ve finally decided where to gather.

Christmas Parties

In addition to this, a Christmas party before semester break is a big part of our childhood. Your school experience wouldn’t be complete without experience exchanging gifts with your classmates.

Gift Shopping and Gift Giving

Who particularly cares about traffic? Filipinos shop for Christmas gifts in congested malls as a holiday tradition. As Filipino workers have more money during holidays out of their bonuses, there’s more opportunities to splurge on their loved ones gifts.

It also helps that the atmosphere in shopping malls is very cheerful and convincing during the “ber” months, with joyful carols on speakers and every shop or corner decorated with Christmas ornaments.

Party Hopping Legend

During the Christmas season, there is never enough food or alcohol. Your appetite is suddenly heightened, and your stomach may consume a week’s worth of food in only one night. But it’s the enjoyment and the stories that matter more than the food.

Starting mid-November, getting a restaurant reservation is nearly impossible before the holiday season. Most weekends have been reserved for parties. Even weekdays become Friday evenings at this season, with people partying in the small hours of the morning.

Just to be on the safe side, you might want to consider face shields or face masks if the crowd gets too heavy.

Giving Back is Fashionable

Giving back is one of the top “ber” month activities. Parties are held in charity houses by corporate groups, old classmates, or groups of friends. After all, what better way to express appreciation than to pay it forward after a good, albeit challenging, year? This is one of the most fulfilling activities one can participate in during the holiday season of joy and giving.

Sweet Christmas Carols

During the “ber” months, Christmas carols are all over the radio. Christmas songs are also played continuously on mall speakers.

The start of “ber” months also means the start of Christmas caroling. Some people may be disturbed by youngsters knocking on their doors to sing carols and ask for money. But Christmas in the Philippines would be incomplete without the innocent and lovely chorus of children caroling for a few pesos.

Loaded With Side Hustles

A lot of people see the holiday season as a great opportunity to start a business.

The “ber” months are especially ideal for starting a business, no matter how big or small. A lot of people are seeking gifts, big or small, for their coworkers, family, friends, etc. So whether you want to sell clothes, toys, or cupcakes online, you will do well. Entrepreneurial minds try to come up with a sideline or another money-making idea during this time. Aside from social media, there are other bazaars where one can sell and earn money.

A promising business venture to consider is entering the food industry. During the holiday season, some working parents don’t have a lot of time to prepare their “noche buena” for Christmas. So most parents buy ready-made food to offer their guests at their Christmas parties.

“Ber” Months Travel Goals

Summer is a popular season for going to the beach and communing with nature. The “ber” months, on the other hand, is about cooler weather and more importantly coming home and reconnecting.

When family members and friends who are OFWs return home to spend the holidays with their loved ones, they frequently opt to explore various parts of the Philippines as their chosen way of celebrating Christmas during their limited time together.

It’s also a fantastic time to travel because the weather isn’t as hot and humid. For those aiming to travel abroad, most of the country is gearing up for Christmas, so your locations will be a little more festive. Just keep an eye out for storm and typhoon warnings.

Home Sweet Home

At this time of year, the arrival section of the airport is the one location where you may find the happiest Filipinos. More than ten million OFWs live or work overseas, and most of them plan to return home for Christmas.

Tight hugs shared between reunited families are one of the purest and sweetest sights to see at any time of year. A family member’s return is sometimes greeted by a vehicle or van packed with relatives. A simple salo-salo or get-together awaits you at home. 

There’s a lot of booze and singing, in addition to the food that the returning OFW relative had missed while away. Family members, understandably, are eager to open the balikbayan boxes that their relative has likely spent a year packing with pasalubong or gifts.

These are just some of the heartwarming traditions we look forward to at the entrance of the “ber” months.

Christmas in Camella

Celebrate your holidays better with your loved ones in a Camella house and lot. Nothing beats a celebration knowing you and your family are in a safe and secured community. To learn more, you may check out our locations across the Philippines, or you may visit our catalog of houses and lots for sale.

Celebrate a very merry Christmas here in Camella!

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