UAE: Is it Christmas in September for Filipino expats?

In some houses, Christmas trees stand tall

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Representational image
Representational image

Published: Fri 2 Sep 2022, 3:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 2 Sep 2022, 5:17 PM

Many Filipino families in the UAE are celebrating early Christmas as is the trend in the Philippines.

Khaleej Times caught up with quite a few families who have already decorated their Christmas trees as it stands tall in their homes, continuing with the family tradition that they grew up with.

The Filipino Christmas apparently begins as soon as the ‘Ber’ month rolls in, running for about 128 days until Three Kings’ Day, sometimes even reaching 166.

It’s very special this year for Abu Dhabi resident Felizze Faye Navarro who is expecting her first child soon. She says: “This is the fourth year that we have put up the Christmas tree early. We usually put it up by September 1. These trees are usually available in IKEA or Daiso. But this year I have a taller tree. Somebody, who left the UAE handed me over her Christmas tree while she was leaving the country.”

She adds: “Last night I finished putting up the ornaments and lighting up the Christmas tree. In my country it’s big. It marks the beginning of the ‘ber-month’. In the Philippines Christmas songs start playing in the malls, everything is sparkling, giving away those Christmas vibes and shoppers are also given early Christmas discounts again displaying the onset of a festive mood. This 1990 track titled Christmas in Our Hearts has become so iconic that Jose Mari Chan — the musician who wrote and recorded the song — pops up as a meme on nearly every Filipino’s social media feed come September.”

Expats say that by this time of the year Philippines is probably already buzzing with the countdown having started. Lanterns would be lighting up streets and balconies and carols would be heard at malls to jeepneys and neighbourhood stores.

Jeramie Umali who is a dentist in Dubai says: “I put up a Christmas tree on August 30. I was really keen on celebrating early Christmas this year as my father is here. He has always been an overseas worker. I have only celebrated (actual) Christmas with him thrice. This is the first early Christmas in my life when my father is here with me, and we are celebrating the ‘ber-month’ together. It marks the beginning of festivities for us. It feels as if the big day is fast approaching. I have done up the Christmas tree with red and green lights. I have three children and they were also quite excited doing the same. But it’s a truly memorable one for me, as this year I am with my dad during this time. I couldn’t be happier.”

April Maranan Bago said: “I have a hand-me-down Christmas tree. I have decorated my Christmas tree only with lights. I haven’t put up any accessories. Christmas is the happiest season of the year, and everyone wants it to continue. It also takes me back to my childhood memories when my five siblings and I would decorate the Christmas tree together. It’s also a harbinger of ‘Noche Buena’ when families gather for the big special dinner on Christmas eve, on 24 December.”

However, a few others who love keeping up with the tradition are unable to do so due to a personal loss.

Filipino expat Emille Parcia says: “The moment its 1 September many Filipino families start decorating the Christmas tree. As you know, it is especially big in the Philippines where there is a significant Catholic population. I also start cleaning up my house and commence with the preparations usually. But last year my sister passed away, so I am not celebrating anything this year.”


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