YULE NEVER BELIEVE THIS…
It’s Christmas in the Philippines!
We got on a commercial airline flight yesterday. Yesterday, as in Tuesday September 1st. As we were getting seated and putting our bags “in the overhead bin,” etc., the airline was playing music over the PA system. I was so glad it was not disco, techno or rap that it took a moment to notice was it actually was. It was Michael Jackson singing “Give Love on Christmas Day.” And it was followed by a whole playlist of Christmas songs.
So what gives? What’s up with the music? Well, no, it’s not because we’re in the Southern Hemisphere and so it’s winter here. We’re in the Northern Hemisphere. Besides, we don’t have “winter,” anyway. We have two seasons: Hot and Dry and Hot and Wet.
And I didn’t say “brrrr” in the title because it’s cold (see paragraph above). Right now it’s “Hot and Wet.”
No, saying “brrrr” comes from the saying that “It’s Christmas in the Philippines in the Ber Ber Months.” This refers to the months of September, October, November, and December! That, of course, does not explain why Christmas, even though it’s been going for four months already, still blurs over into January (no “ber” there!)
IT’S A DIFFERENT MINDSET…
For us in the US, we love to looking forward to Christmas, and it’s always fun to get the decorations and start playing our Christmas CDs. But we have end of summer, Back-to-School, Labor Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving first! To start playing the Christmas music before those holidays seems… wrong. Premature. Spoils the anticipation.
But for Filipinos, they love to get started and play those Christmas songs for 4 months straight. Even though All Saints’ Day (Nov 1) is a huge family holiday here, they don’t mind starting Christmas two months before that. So the Christmas songs start on September 1. And they love ’em so much, they don’t stop right away just because December becomes January (although New Year’s Eve is a big deal with fireworks more closely approximating a war zone!)
It’s not “wrong.” It’s a different way of thinking… a different perspective… a different culture. And at least no one is trying to banish Christ from Christmas here.
The Palawanos’ culture is something altogether different. Unlike Filipinos, until relatively recently most Palawanos had not heard of Christ or Christmas. And now that Palawanos have heard about Christmas from Filipinos, for most unbelieving Palawanos, Christmas seems to be about gifts (receiving them, preferable) and parties (thrown by someone else.)
But the Palawano Christians love Christmas for its true meaning. Now that the gospel has borne fruit in their lives, they love to sing Christmas songs (the ones about Christ, not about holly and smooching). They often plan a potluck and share the feast with the non-Christians who come only for free food. They love to reflect on the story of Christmas and God’s love for the world.
RIGHT… and WRONG…
So culture can be different without being wrong. But when it comes to Christmas, there are ways to get it wrong in any culture. Many Palawano think it’s only about rich people giving them gifts and food. Lots of Filipinos think that Christmas means salvation for all without realizing that Calvary was also necessary and that Christ must be accepted by faith. And our Western culture is sure not immune to getting it wrong… Christmas is not about Santa, X-Boxes and DUIs after work parties. Christmas is not even a generic sense of “goodwill and generosity” as if mankind invented the concept.
And those who try to remove Christ from Christmas have it wrong too, of course.
No, Christmas is indeed about giving but it was God’s idea and his gift of his Son makes anything under our trees look pretty insignificant.
Why would anyone reject a gift like that?
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