Want The Christmas Season To Last Longer? Go To The Philippines Sleigh bells, snowy skies and a glowing fire evoke an idyllic Christmas. But the tropics can be just as festive. The Philippines boasts the longest yuletide season in the world.
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Want The Christmas Season To Last Longer? Go To The Philippines

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Want The Christmas Season To Last Longer? Go To The Philippines

Want The Christmas Season To Last Longer? Go To The Philippines

Want The Christmas Season To Last Longer? Go To The Philippines

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/679764884/679764885" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Sleigh bells, snowy skies and a glowing fire evoke an idyllic Christmas. But the tropics can be just as festive. The Philippines boasts the longest yuletide season in the world.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

I don't know about you. I hit a point just a few days ago when I felt like, OK, I'm ready to hear the holiday music in taxis, coffee shops, on the radio, television - just bring it. Early December, Thanksgiving - to me, that is just too early.

But that's not the case for people in the Philippines. NPR's Julie McCarthy says people there start feeling the holiday cheer before Christmas - like, four months before. Here's her postcard from Manila.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: There's no chance of snow, but there is passion in this tropical archipelago for Christmas that is unparalleled. From the glories of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra...

(SOUNDBITE OF PHILIPPINE PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA PERFORMANCE OF BEETHOVEN'S "SYMPHONY NO. 9 IN D MINOR, OP. 125")

MCCARTHY: ...It's "Ode To Joy," sung by the celebrated University of Santo Tomas singers at the iconic Peninsula Hotel's annual Christmas concert.

(SOUNDBITE OF PHILIPPINE PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA PERFORMANCE OF BEETHOVEN'S "SYMPHONY NO. 9 IN D MINOR, OP. 125")

MCCARTHY: Church choruses, such as the Mary the Queen parish choir, enliven the mood.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARY THE QUEEN PARISH CHOIR: (Singing) Deck the halls with boughs of holly. Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la.

MCCARTHY: Christmas-obsessed Filipinos launch their yuletide season in the so-called Ber months - September, October, November. Their Christmas season is as visually resplendent as it is long.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MCCARTHY: Hotel lobbies glisten with decorations worthy of a czar's winter palace. Christmas parades feature full-blown floats. The Philippines stands out in Asia for being more than 90 percent Christian - mostly Catholic. But is the true meaning of the season getting lost with all the Christmas fever?

Wilfrido Arcilla, a marketing consultant and professor at Manila's Ateneo Graduate School of Business, says, no. Rather, he says, this season reflects the many facets that define Filipino culture.

WILFRIDO ARCILLA: Family and faith, fiesta and food, friends and fun.

MCCARTHY: Arcilla says a healthy balance still exists between the secular and spiritual at Christmas time. Father Flavie Villanueva says the church should not antagonize people by attacking the commercialism of Christmas, but rather draw them closer to the teachings of the faith.

FLAVIE VILLANUEVA: So that they might be liberated from that enslaving thought that Christmas is mainly about buying gifts. It's more of looking at Santa Claus rather than the child Jesus.

MCCARTHY: The church is arguably holding its own when millions attend a Misa de Gallo, or rooster Mass.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Oh, come. Oh, come, Emmanuel.

MCCARTHY: In a tradition dating to the Spanish colonial era, Catholics go to nine consecutive Masses ending on Christmas Eve Day. Services start at 5 in the morning, a test of faith for worshippers, like choir director Carolyn Cheng.

CAROLYN CHENG: It helps build anticipation for the feast. Some people go straight from parties to the Mass (laughter).

MCCARTHY: After nourishing the soul, it's time to eat. And tonight, many will tuck into the cherished Christmas feast of roasted pig - whole ones - known as lechon.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHOPPING)

MCCARTHY: Lechonero Ariel De Los Reyes says business has been brisk at his 60-year-old establishment. I asked De Los Reyes if his family eats lechon for Christmas.

ARIEL DE LOS REYES: No, no. We eat hot dogs and ham. That's it - and hot cocoa.

MCCARTHY: On Christmas Day, this family of pig roasters wants a break from the food that their countrymen are savoring with friends and family. Being with family is the No. 1 wish that Filipinos ask for this season. Maki Takagaki had a unique wish.

MAKI TAKAGAKI: I want a boyfriend.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCARTHY: Well, it is all about love at Christmas. Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Manila.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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