CATHOLIC Chinese families living in the Philippines like ours are one with pure traditional Filipinos in celebrating the Yuletide season, doing essentially similar preparations and observing traditions leading to Christmas Day.
There are no major differences in the ways we celebrate Christmas and how Filipinos do it – except that we do some practices twice.
What many people commonly observe – Simbang Gabi, gift-giving and attending Christmas parties – we do all of them, too.
Christmas lights, Christmas trees and lanterns are also all over the place in houses. The Chinese commonly allots money for the decoration of their houses as they expect the arrival of guests.
Red shirts and dresses are also a staple to many Chinese people on the 24th and the 25th of December, as they believe wearing them would bring good luck.
Children also believe Santa Claus is to come down and bring them gifts, as they also place socks next to or near the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve.
In China, however, Dec. 25 is just a normal day. Residents do business as usual. But they celebrate Christmas based on the Lunar Calendar, which falls on the early part of the year.
In our family, we celebrate Christmas twice: every Dec. 25 and during the “Chinese Christmas,” where the famous tikoy (rice cake), which symbolizes close family ties, is commonly served.
For 2019 the Chinese Christmas will be on Feb. 4, which precedes the more elaborate Chinese New Year on Feb. 5.
In addition, we go to two churches during the Christmas season: at the Roman Catholic Church for the traditional Simbang Gabi (dawn masses) and, on the 25th, at the Chinese Temple to pray before Buddha statues.
Among our relatives, some would head to the house of others where they would gather on Christmas Eve when they share the traditional Noche Buena and spend the hours ’til Christmas Day together.
In the case of our family, where majority have hectic work schedules, we prefer getting a reservation at a buffet restaurant and eating there on the 24th rather than manually preparing food for the Noche Buena.
Filipino and Chinese families in the Philippines may have two different cultures, but when it comes to Christmas, they share many ways in celebrating what a song calls the “most wonderful time of the year.”/PN
Adrian Stewart Co is a Manila correspondent for Panay News.