The Holiday Difference

Time flies at an accelerating rate. It's christmas once more & another year to our lifetime. I can still remember moments from last year like it was just yesterday. I do wonder if it is because we're now older & we unconciously know that we are at the second half of our lifetime - it is true that the first half brought us more mystery & surprises of things to come.
-My mom's Santa collection -

It was in mid-November when Paris switched their magical christmas lights on - Champs Elysses beaming with holiday madness. In our little barrio, christmas lights were turned on the first of December. You wouldn't even notice them - just another light on the lamp post. The French are just starting to buy their christmas pine trees & decorating their houses with a holiday spirit. The mall crowd have doubled since the turn of the month. I wondered again why my gift shopping was too easy this year.

In the malls, although there are no christmas songs to set the ambiance even further, a stage is set up with your every christmas imagination while Santa waits for children's wishes & photographs. The shops have those little baskets filled with free papillon chocolate candies & super promos. Extra tables line the entrance of shops to accomodate the gift wrapping demand. It is literally a holiday rush that allows us to get into the spirit about 3 weeks before christmas.

My first christmas in France was not that difficult. I was discovering a lot of new things & to experience the holidays in a different setting excited me. The christmas eve dinner overwhelmed me to no end - France truly exhibits the significance of conviviality in dining & intimacy. Dinner starts at past 8 with the best wines, recipes & cheese. Coffee, hot tea or even digestive liquor are served at past 1am. Gifts are distributed, opened & appreciated. Then you're half digesting in bed at 3 in the morning wondering how you're going to lose those extra pounds when you're about 3 months into the height of winter. But it's just so tempting to have another sliver of foie gras or that homemade dessert. It does only come especially during the holidays. New years are normally spent with friends, champagne & parties. Fireworks are prohibited. Who wants to freeze out in the cold anyway?
- My mother-in-law's homemade Foie Gras, served together with white wine & bread is considered one of the world's greatest delicacies along with truffles & caviar -

The thing is there is nothing like the Filipino christmas. Sure it is the height of total consumerism but putting that aside, there is a certain sensation I couldn't grasp amidst the white christmas of France. After five christmases, I've never put up a tree. Just those simple ornaments for a tinge of christmas decors & it didn't bother me so much. We spent the holidays at our own home only once because I had to work but we normally celebrate it in Belfort with the whole family. Besides, I don't have my mother's knack for house decorations.

As early as September, radios already tease the Filipinos with a little holiday cheer. The malls start setting the christmas spirit & there is literally a change in the air. Sure there are also people who take the opportunity to score brownie points for an early christmas gift or to accumulate them at the end of the year. The Philippines is known to celeberate the holiday season the longest. It is certainly not a christmas rush but rather an ambiance - a spirit I had to understand by being away from this environment I grew up with.
-My mom's christmas tree -

The Simbang Gabi (early morning mass) where we buy puto bumbong for breakfast with the family or breakast at Goodah's with friends. The kris kringle at work & with friends with an imposed gift budget. The many christmas parties to spread the joy. The Filipinos truly exhibit the significance of conviviality in camaraderie.

Our christmas & new year's eve dinner's highlight are the Majestic Ham, sotanghon & my dad's famous 12 grapes - 1 grape for good luck each month. Voices of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby fill our house with christmas cheer. The neighbors you meet at church after the midnight mass. The giving & opening of gifts are always moving because we always choose the gifts we give with significant meanings. And the display of fireworks on new year's eve - more noise the better to push away the incoming bad luck. The holiday season in the Philippines is truly cheerful & animated through the abundance of faith, belief & spirituality.

I will probably get a tree for next christmas. I already bought a compilation of christmas songs. Afterall, the spirit starts at home & maybe, just maybe, I am able to spread the joy.


From Manila to Paris, then to Marseille & to the Côte d'Azur, now in Singapore, clinging to a map of three worlds, where everything becomes all relative.


  1. After reading this post I wanted to crawl under the covers and sulk (I probably will do so later on), because it dawned on me that... I don't want to spend Christmas here in France!!! I want to be back in Manila where Christmas is not just a non-working holiday, but a celebration of love. The simbang gabi, the New Year's eve fireworks, the NOISE of family gatherings... I'm missing all of these things so much. I don't want champagne - I want to drink San Mig lites and eat sisig with my brothers. I don't want the long formal dinners - I want to hear my mother shouting at us to stop eating the Noche Buena at 9pm. I just want a break from all this formality, a break from speaking French ... I just want to be home.

    God, I have successfully whined like an idiot on your comments board, so sorry, Kisma! Your post really moved me.


  2. you just made me miss phil xmas all the more...merry xmas makis.

  3. nakakamiss ang pasko sa Pinas :( Iba ang simoy ng hangin dun pati pagkain. Sarap umuwi..kung pwede lang sana ....
    Have a happy holidays Makis

  4. Kala :You actually summarized my post in a one paragraph comment :)

    analyse :But this year, you have the best christmas gift ever! Happy christmas to you, frenchguy & bébé Louna!

    Bless :I totally agree! Diba, special talaga pasko don??? Happy holidays to you too!

  5. Hi Makis! miss na miss ko na rin ang Pasko sa atin. ang saya-saya kasi dun, naiiba ang pakiramdam. hopefully in the near future, dun naman kami maki-pamasko. gosh, miss ko na ang tinubong!

    your Mom has a very nice Christmas tree, and cute Santa collections. =)

    advance Merry Christmas to you both! =)

  6. I just had my first Xmas tree this year Makis !!! I guess having children pushed me more to have one at home...You gave me an idea the next time I'll go to Pinas I will buy Xmas songs, not a single CD :-(

    Anyway, advance merry christmas to both of you and don't forget our get together ha! Looking forward to it impatiently :-))) Take care !

  7. I agree... Christmas back home is not the same here in the States. I haven't spent Christmas sa Pinas for 12 years now and I wish I can plan on spending it there next year. Sigh!

  8. Hi, Makis! This year is my 5th Christmas here in France and I'm making sure that the celebration is a very memorable one, unconsciously imitating how we feast it in PI. It's a dismay because it makes me long for home all the more. Our Philippine Christmas is just so unique by itself. It's the spirit, the warmth of the ambiance, and the richness of the culture that altogether give the magical beauty of Christmas.

    Nevertheless, here in the cold and gloomy France, let's celebrate the holiday season with gladness and welcome the new year with open arms!

  9. Ligaya :Thank you Ligaya! I hope too that Ninev can experience a Pinoy christmas!

    Merry christmas to you & your family!

    Hazel :I'm happy you had your first "fresh" christmas tree this year! But I guess the tree is not only for kids, diba???

    We will definitely have a get-together next year!

    sistersalvation :12 years?!?! I don't think I can go that long! I really do hope too that you could spend it next year in the Philippines & you really should :)

    Joy :I totally agree with you! That's what I felt this year. I was so repressing myself believing that nothing will replace the Pinoy christmas but I guess we really cannot imitate it but at least we can spread the spirit by starting in our own home.

    Thank you for the holiday cheers everyone!