It’s snowing again in Reno and time to celebrate Christmas!
It’s unbelievable how fast time flies. I’ve been asking countless people, “Can you believe it’s December?” to which I get a response of “...Yes, I can.” But it can’t be just me, right? You’re telling me the last time I’ve seen my immediate family was a year ago? You’re telling me…there’s snow again?! It seems like nothing, yet simultaneously, everything has happened in the capsule of a year. And once again, it’s the holiday season. Bright lights, the cold, and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.”
This time it’s different, though.
Spending the holidays in a completely different country—let alone culture—is like opening a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get! Once I got to spend Xmas in Japan, and it turns out they don't go wham bam crazy there unlike in the Philippines. My family sets up our fair share of decor, enough to make you feel the Christmas vibe and have cute photos for your keepsake.
This year in the United States, I started to feel the holidays as soon as the weeklong fall season ended and winter came in like a wrecking ball. Yes, my fall this year lasted for a week then the skies gushed out snowstorms mercilessly. What’s more bizarre, despite having lived in the United States for a year now, is that the Christmas decorations came out only after Thanksgiving!
Christmas in the Philippines
I guess one reason why it came off as a shock to me is how we, Filipinos, start preparing for Christmas the moment “ber” is in the month…yes, September. We start preparing in September. All the parols (star lanterns like the photo below!) come out of their boxes and are now the spotlight of all goodies to be sold. The Filipino singer Jose Marie Chan and his rendition of “Christmas in our Hearts” becomes the national anthem of every mall (we have a huge mall culture). Of course, in addition to every house being already over decorated with Christmas decorations…three months…before the holiday.
Our Christmas Eve starts with a holy Catholic mass at 9 p.m., followed by a calm wait for midnight—unless you're, like, eight years old—then you eat noche buena with the family before distributing the gifts under the tree. In the feast you will find the good old ham, Filipino spaghetti and barbecue, buko salad (a yummy coconut fruit salad), and, of course, rice. The morning after Christmas Eve starts out pretty late, most people just giddy over the gifts they received.
Christmas in America
As for the United States, Christmas is more low-key. More like Filipinos just exaggerate. People are reserved, and it’s more solemn than it is celebratory. The picture of diversity also comes into play. It’s a part of the American culture that I love; you can be who you are and believe in what you want, and you have every right to do so. With that said, not everyone goes crazy with decorations.
It’s also harder to celebrate collectively as most people are very independent. But that means you can enjoy a good holiday without extra “holiday work.” On the other hand, holiday gatherings are more prominent, like the potluck we—the Diversity and International Student Center and Office at my college—will have along with party games like White Elephant: it brings you the nostalgia of Christmas spirit.
|Alaine Obra from the Philippines is studying for an associate’s degree in computer science at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nevada.|
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