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Countdown to Christmas begins in Philippines 

By Santosh Digal

Manila: September 1 is the day when major media networks in the Philippines and people in general begin to talk about Christmas countdown.

“Christmas has been a distinctive culture of Filipino life. As early as September 1, shopping malls across the country begin to decorate with Christmas items. One begins to hear Christmas carols too. This creates a festive mood,” says Mary S. Aquino, a Catholic from Archdiocese of Manila.

It is generally believed that the Philippines has three seasons: dry season, rainy (or wet) season and Christmas season. “It may be said in a lighter vein, but there is some truth in it. Many say the country has the world’s longest Christmas season, beginning from September 1 to January 6, the feast of Epiphany, the 26-year-old Filipina told Matters India.

Business establishments across the country “commercialize” any festive occasion, making holidays longer. For some in the Philippines, Christmas lasts until Valentine’s Day (February 14).

However, the Philippines also has really some special religious practices related to Christmas, unlike many countries around the world.

In the Philippines, Christmas season is designed to begin on December 16 and ends with “Simbang Gabi” (pre-dawn version of the midnight Mass). It has remained unchanged since it was first Christianized by Spain in 1587.

The parol, the quintessential Filipino Christmas symbol that is rivaled only by the Christmas tree in terms of its ubiquity, was invented in 1928 by the artisan Francisco Estanislao mainly to motivate Catholics to attend Simbang Gabi.
Father Carmelo Arada, Jr, of Archdiocese of Manila says countdown for Christmas from September 1 is seen as part of the Filipino psyche.

One reason why Christmas countdown begins from September is that Filipinos are friendly by nature, helpful and generous. They often display their strong faith in religious practices and great deal of resilience as much of the country is mountainous and prone to earthquakes and eruptions from around 20 active volcanoes.

It is often buffeted by typhoons and other storms. Regardless of these, they always wish to be happy. It is their cultural trait, which has fascinates many.

“Why Christmas always attracts Filipinos is that they tend to associate their typical yearning of Christmas with pleasantry addiction. They may try to ignore the negative but nonetheless important aspects of life because they just wish to be happy all the time,” said Michael D Soriano, a Catholic youngman who works at a call center in Manila.

The Philippines has 86 Catholic dioceses that periodically direct their faithful to celebrate Christmas with proper spiritual preparation and live it as witnesses of God’s love with humility and simplicity, not to be distracted with the “commercialization of Christmas” by some business outlets.

The Philippines is 7,500 island-archipelagos, but the bulk of its fast-growing population lives on just 11 of them. Some 83 percent of the 102.6 million population is Catholic.

The country got its name from a 16th-century Spanish king. It was a Spanish colony for more than three centuries. The US took it over in the early 20th century after a protracted rebellion against the rule from Madrid.

Spanish and US influences remain strong, especially in terms of language, religion and government, reports BBC.

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