For a moment there, I actually felt I can live here.
The truth is I don't really like being cold outside too long even on a day like this.
But the truth is it is just so beautiful.
Do you also have noses like tomatoes on a day like this?
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?
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.
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.
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