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Spending Your First Christmas with Your Filipino Girlfriend

A photo of a Filipino woman
Your Filipino girlfriend should be the focus of your attention this Christmas.

Your first Christmas as a new couple is always bound to be more than just interesting - it is a memory in the making. Whether you are coming over to the Philippines or at least following along with the Filipino festivities, it may be important for you to know how Christmas is celebrated in the country.

The urge to impress your girlfriend persists during the initial period from when you officially become a couple. The excitement exists because there is so much you two need to discover about each other. The leadup to your first Christmas together only heightens these feelings.

You want everything to be perfect. You want your time together to be extra special, if only to reach a deeper connection than before.

You may wonder, what is there to worry about? It’s just Christmas, right? It happens every single year, and unless you grew up on a remote island in the middle of the pacific ocean, you should be fairly familiar with how it is celebrated.

You may be correct, but only partially. If Christmas is special where you come from, have a gander at how the Filipinos do it. So if you want to to keep up with your Filipino girlfriend, then here are some of the biggest things to expect for your first Philippine Christmas:

The first day of September

The Philippines being a majority Catholic nation takes its religious holidays seriously. As a matter of fact, Christmas is so popular in the country that September 1st has become the unofficial start of the season.

While it may seem odd to the rest of the world to play Christmas songs and carols as early as September, it has been accepted by Filipinos as a way of life, with malls and big establishments leading the way.

While not everyone is onboard with the idea of a 4 month holiday season, it just seems like a good business for any commercial establishment to inspire a wave of shopping during the -ber months.

So don’t be surprised to hear Christmas music and see decorations so early. With a horde of Christmas activities lined up for you, you’ll be glad you have 4 months to do them all!

Simbang Gabi

If your girlfriend is like most Filipino women, then she is going to require you to accompany her and her family to Simbang Gabi. Translated to “night mass,” the simbang gabi is a 9 day series of devotional masses which are celebrated anywhere from 3 to 5 o’clock in the morning.

If ever you have the goal of beating the sun, this is your chance. While sticking to the 9 day schedule may require extraordinary dedication and discipline, you will find the solemnity of the early mass to be very relaxing. The fully lit church in the cool and dark of the early morning is a sight to behold.

Plan your week accordingly, making sure you get enough sleep. You wouldn’t want to start snoring in the middle of the priest’s homily.

House to house caroling

What do you get when you mix Filipinos and Christmas together? Lots of singing, that’s what you get. And why not? You have some of the most talented people to ever walk the earth given free license to sing everywhere around the village.

So whether or not you or your girlfriend are blessed with golden vocal cords, you are most probably going to get your chance to join in a group of choristers, walk from house to house, and sing a variety of carols, both traditional and in the Filipino language. You may even get some free money while you’re at it.

Noche Buena

While you may choose to have dinner on Christmas Eve, try having a cup of tea or coffee instead. It is Filipino tradition to feast heavily on midnight, counting down to Christmas day.

Noche Buena isn’t just a Christmas feast. It is THE Christmas feast. Because in the weeks leading up to December 25th, and towards January 1st, you and your girlfriend are most likely going to attend dozens of parties.

Filipinos will find any and every excuse to party. We have holidays, feast days, baptisms, birthdays, christenings, house blessings, your dog’s 4th birthday - you name it. If it’s somewhat important, they’ll celebrate it.

A photo of ube puto cheese
Noche Buena is the perfect showcase for the best Filipino delicacies.

The same thing goes with Christmas. There won’t be just one party. Every single subgroup you are a part of is likely to hold a party of their own. You have company parties, church parties, family (and extended family) parties, etc. If you don’t end up gaining 20 pounds by the year’s end, then you haven’t celebrated Christmas the proper Filipino way.

Manito-manita

The manito-manita, a term used for the exchanging of gifts, further affirms the Filipino propensity to be merry. While gift giving isn’t exactly a new concept for anyone, Filipinos have practically made it an absolute ritual. In December, employees in companies may have a weekly exchange of gifts. Add that to the fact that Filipinos love to have extended families, and that’s a lot of gifts you are going to start wrapping.

But while you may need to start buying enough gifts to satisfy a small village, do so with the knowledge that you will have your girlfriend with you. On the other hand, you might want to consider doing some weightlifting. When you accompany her for Christmas shopping, she’s going to need a strongman to carry all those gifts!

a gift being wrapped
Gift giving is a major part of Filipino Christmas tradition.

Spread that Christmas cheer

While it’s tempting to want to go to all the parties, buy all the gifts, and eat all the food, just remember that all that really matters is that you are together with her. It also matters to her that you get to spend time with her family.

The best thing you can do for her is to be with her, to not be grinchy at early morning mass, and to just go along wherever she takes you. Remember, Christmas is important for her on all levels. It’s part of her religion and tradition. Do all this, and you two may just end up on the right side of some mistletoe.

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