Christmas Parties: It’s More Fun in the Philippines!
The Philippines, one of the few ultimately Christian countries in Asia, has been known to have the longest Christmas season in the whole world. Officially, this season starts when the series of “Simbang Gabi,” or the traditional four-AM mass, shoots off and usually ends until the first week of January. Part of the Christmas celebration of most Filipinos is Christmas parties. For most Filipinos, a nation used to celebrating lavishly, Christmas parties are another way to eat, drink, give gifts, and enjoy. You don’t need to be Christian to hold Christmas parties—just about every school, office, or organization in the country anticipates and participates in this fun tradition every year.
Christmas parties in the Philippines are usually held on the second week of December or, in the case of schools, right before the students’ Christmas vacation starts. The following are the elements or aspects commonly seen in Filipino Christmas parties, though not necessarily in this order.
Especially in schools, parlor games make up the bulk of the party program. To enhance the enjoyment, everybody is encouraged to participate, and winners are often awarded with prizes such as loot bags or mini-gifts. Traditional parlor games, among a few, are Trip to Jerusalem, relays, newspaper dance, stop dance, and “Bring Me,” though some people try to come up with new, creative games for excitement and variety. Music is often played in the background while these games occur.
Filipinos are lavish when it comes to serving food in parties, and Christmas parties are no exception. Participants usually contribute money and use the collected money to buy food, or they resort to potluck, where each person brings in a specific dish plenty enough to feed everyone.
Song and dance numbers are a way to entertain participants or showcase their hidden talents. They can also hire singers or dancers from outside to add to the roster of performers or if no one inside is willing to perform. While people are eating, a song or dance number is often happening to entertain people.
Monito/Monita (Secret Santa or Exchange Gifts)
Typically the last and the most-awaited part of the program, the “Monito/Monita” is the Filipino counterpart of the “Secret Santa.” A few days or weeks before the awaited Christmas party, students or employees draw lots to find out who they will be giving gifts to. Everyone’s name must be in the draw box, and everyone gets a chance to pick, though occasionally some choose not to participate. In some cases, the name on the paper is accompanied by the type of gift that he or she wants to receive, though most people leave this part out. For the sake of mystery, no one’s supposed to tell anyone the name that he or she picked. The gift-giving happens during the Christmas party. Often, the participants are more surprised by who their gift-giver (or “monito/monita”) turned out to be rather than the gift they received.
The elements mentioned above are never absent in Filipino Christmas parties, though variety exists depending on how they want the party to flow. But food, fun games, and exciting gift giving are the typical essentials of the traditional Christmas party, and of course, the Filipinos’ love for dancing and singing add to the fun and cheer!
Article by Jhoanne Kristine Vinuya