Long before Christmas arrives, the Filipinos are already prepared. We call it the "BER" months, so as early as September each year the holiday spirit is already in the air. Yes! The Philippines is known for having the longest Christmas celebration in the world. This is very likely because, the country is one of the two nations in Asia that is mostly Christian.
This is the time of the year where the usual Misa De Gallo or Simbang Gabi is being looked forward to; tis the season of Puto Bumbong and Christmas carolling too. However, come Christmastime, what are the things that we usually prepare for? What are those that we have to spend for? How can we celebrate Christmas without having to welcome the New Year with empty pockets considering the state of the economy we are in?
Here is a walk-through on the basic Pinoy preparations for the annual yuletide commemoration and tips on how to spend wisely.
Christmas is never without the spirit of decorations. While practically the whole world sets up a Christmas tree in each home, the "Parol" (lantern) is unique to the Philippines. This lantern is usually sold at a very expensive price, especially if you buy it around December. Instead of buying the lantern/s, a better idea would be to make one. You can DIY a lantern by using recyclable materials which can be found around your surroundings. You don't only get to save money but you also unleash the inner creativity in you. You can do the same for all other decors including the "Belen", among others.
It is also a tradition that in this time of the year, a group of people would pass by house-to-house to sing the merry carols of Christmas. In exchange of the songs rendered by the group, the household is expected to give money. So, usually we'd have money set aside to give away in honour of this tradition. As a suggestion, it won't really be too bad to tweak that tradition a little bit by offering food instead of money.
Ninongs and Ninangs (godparents) during this time of the year also prepare gifts for their "inaanak" (godchild/godchildren). They act as the Santa Claus as they are expected to give gifts come Christmas time, usually in the form of money and widely called the “Aguinaldo”. There is really no need to break this gift-giving practice, but in order to save, just like the decors, you can also DIY gifts, and this would even have more meaning because of the thought and time spent to create the gift.
Christmas parties are also among many we prepare for. A typical Filipino fellow is not limited to just one holiday gathering as there is usually more than one he/she gets invitation to attend. Don't spend too lavishly on these parties. Remember that your presence is already a gift.
Fireworks are also a big thing that is being prepared by most. Don't spend on those expensive explosives. They are as mentioned, expensive, plus there is the risk of getting injured which can mean additional expense on your part. You can, perhaps, attend a light show or fireworks event showcased in your locality and let the experts light up for the festivities, whilst you sit back, relax and enjoy the show. Or else, you can light candles at the dinner table or use the less hazardous items like sparklers as they are much cheaper too.
Now, for the most highlighted part of this season, we all prepare for the Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) feast with our respective families, and our year-end banquet which is the New Year's Eve party. A good tip on how you can save from the expenditures is to shop for on sale food items. It does not matter what food you prepare on the table to commemorate the holiday season, what matters is that you celebrate the merriment with the people you love. The common items that never go amiss on the dinner table for both Christmas and New Year's eves are the ham and Queso de Bola. A lot of times, though, you get them as a gift or as part of the Christmas basket given away by respective employment companies to their employees.
In a Rappler survey last year on Christmas shopping in the Philippines, it indicated that the percentage rates hit high during the months of November and December, the former with about 24% and the latter at about 55% on the shopping spree.
A happy holiday does not have to entail a lot of expenses. This season is about reconnecting with family and loved ones. As Filipinos, we have a belief that an ideal way to end the year is to make sure that we have money in our pockets and we even go all the way to wearing polka dotted get-ups to welcome an abundant year ahead of us. So, refrain from spending all of your earnings including your 13th month pay. Spend for just enough and save the rest. Do not wipe out your credit card balance just because you want to show off. Control your impulses, because, honestly, time well spent with our loved ones is way better than what money can buy. It creates memories that can last a lifetime and starting a New Year where you are debt free is a great way to welcome the New Year.
Do not spend so much for the yuletide festivities, because you do not have to. Your Christmas gift for yourself is to be wise about the occasion and to rise above it. Remember the humility of the One main reason for this season. Stay humble and Happy Christmas!