Christmas Lantern

December 25th in Brookings, South Dakota… It is Christmas 2012 and everything around me looks so gloomy!

Sitting by the glass window and tapping my fingers on the wooden table, I stared outside watching for movements on the snow-covered walkways. No one is outside on Christmas day. The fact that today is a holiday and stores are closed, plus a bothering cold weather, has kept everyone stuck inside the house. Brookings has become some sort of a ghost town.

The radio has been playing Christmas tunes since last night. There are songs that are completely new to me. I am not entirely sure why I keep a bit distant from these new artists with their new holiday songs. Perhaps because I grew up listening to the classics. Perhaps because I have been warmed up more to mellow music. Christmas songs about missing your loved ones are often delightful and relevant.

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, sings Michael Buble. Every lyric and stanza reminded me of how it felt when Christmas was still celebrated at home in the Philippines. As I sit in here and listen to “Silent Night” and “Oh Holy Night”, for the first time in years, I muse on sorrow and sorrowful music. Perhaps it might be for the longing of being at home on Christmas day!

And it got me into thinking — what made me miss home? What, actually, are these events and scenes during Christmas that are worthy of reminiscing and coming back? I picked the top 5.

1. Giant Christmas lanterns (parol) that decorate the streets and houses.

2. Kasadya Ning Taknaa (How Joyful Is This Moment) – The classic jolly Cebuano song that never fails to fill my longing for Christmas.

3. Caroling – Young and old alike go from house to house singing Christmas songs. As Christmas day nears, a household could get more than 5 groups a night!

4. Simbang Gabi (Night Mass) – This is a nine-day series of Masses starting from December 16 and ending on December 24. They are usually celebrated as early as 3AM to 5AM.

5. Giant Christmas Trees – We do not use real evergreens for our Christmas trees. Filipinos innovate. Here is one made of sturdy steel structure and decorated with lanterns at the Fuente Osmeña Circle in Cebu. It is a three-story high tree (120 feet) with 15,000 flickering lights.

Are you a Filipino who lives miles away from home? What do you miss most about Christmas in the Philippines? Leave your comments below.

Here’s a video I made for all my friends around the world. Merry Christmas everyone!