Every September and the months that follow, my dad always has this one Christmas joke lined up. It’s a classic in our household, so much so that it’s almost a tradition. It goes something to the effect of: “How many seasons does the Philippines have?” And you’d have to answer “Two, of course, dry season and rainy season.” Then he’d laughingly shoot back “No! There are actually five! Hot, very hot, wet, very wet, and Christmas!” And ever so begrudgingly, I would let out a slightly forced chuckle. Every… single… year. It’s helplessly corny and horribly overused but it is something I have come to fully appreciate in retrospect.
We Filipinos have an inescapable love affair with the season of Christmas. It’s in our collective national DNA. I mean, it must be. Why else would we start putting up Christmas decorations in September and then only take them down in time for Valentine’s Day? Why else would “Merry Christmas!” be as viable a greeting as “Good Morning!” or “Hi, how are you?” for what is essentially half of the entire calendar year? The truth is, there’s just something about the season that is becoming so easy for us to cling to.
Barring our nation’s Christian upbringing (I’ll get to that later), I think it has something to do with the simple notion of convenience. Similar to how we like our telenovelas to have drama, romance, and intrigue all wrapped up within one episode. I often find myself loving the convenience of having an excuse to be cheerfully ignorant. Why stress about my real world problems when I get to enjoy 6 months of Christmas cheer! For a lot of my contemporaries, the event is increasingly becoming nothing but a nice, sparkly veil that we throw on our problems every year to distract us from having to face them.
Oh food and gas prices are going up? Why worry? It’s Christmas! Just heat up last year’s leftover queso de bola and have yourself a holiday feast! Oh there’s rampant political turmoil? Who cares! It’ll sort itself out in the senate/congress/presidential Christmas Party! Oh Christmas is supposed to be a time of introspective celebration underlined by the humble origins of Christianity’s founder? Sure, but there’s also presents and bonuses to be had! Hooray!
And of course, it would be remiss of me not to mention how the holiday season has become an advertiser’s daydream too. A little pandering here and there, a little sprucing up with some “Christmas spirit” and you get millions upon millions of willing buyers. A holiday so rooted in faith seems to have lost its place in the Filipino Christmas season, drowned in a sea of lights and mass-produced merchandise. Surely, I’m not the first to point out how this holiday has become as commercial as it is religious- and I’m not going to get too deep into that discussion (maybe next year). The difference I’m trying to point out is that it lasts much much longer here. And more to the point, I fear that for as long as we keep treating the event as a long drawn out holiday that serves to artificially transplant us with happiness, as commercial enterprising extravaganza for months on end; then my father will keep asking for the number of seasons the Philippines has, and Christmas will quickly be exactly that – a joke.