It’s no secret that Christmas is widely celebrated in the Philippines. Once the -ber months start, you’ll hear Jose Mari Chan’s iconic Christmas songs just around the corner. Of course, this would induce such joy that we get to Christmas decorating even as early as the first of September. Filipinos prepare for the season with much anticipation. However, due to the current pandemic, many people are wondering the same thing.
Due to COVID-19, people are wondering: Is Christmas canceled?
Filipinos love Christmas. Sociologically speaking, the reason behind this comes from the holiday being regarded as a festival. It transcends the banality of the ordinariness of the rest of the year… even some holidays don’t matter at all. Christmas gives us a heightened sense of hope and awareness that things will be good, or at least different. Long traditions and religious practices mark the season.
However, for Filipinos, Christmas isn’t just a religious moment. It is very cultural. Families are expected to be completely reunited as they eat and celebrate together. Christmas isn’t just about the birth of a child as much as it is about the family itself. The season is also considered a happy time of the year because of its wide commercialization and the practice of gift-giving.
COVID-19: The risks of celebrating Christmas.
Christmas is very important in the Philippines. Nine days before the day itself, Filipinos would go to Church and attend the Simbang Gabi. Many people stay awake all night of the 24th of December into Christmas day. The day itself, on the other hand, is a big, open house celebration with family, friends, and neighbors dropping in to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. There’s a lot of kids giving a mano po gesture to their godparents expecting money and lots of gifts.
Enter COVID-19. Attending a Simbang Gabi at the Church is a huge no-no due to the risk of spreading a virus during the Ama Namin and the Communion. Having a big, open house celebration is another thing that we can’t do right now. Families, friends, and neighbors popping in and out of the house could receive and spread the coronavirus. The mano po gesture includes a lot of handholding that remains another risk of spreading COVID-19.
Christmas and COVID-19 can co-exist, but plans will surely change.
Restrictions have started to ease across most parts of the country. Christmas reunions may be possible, but only for a small knit of people. Traveling may also be possible. We can go to the beach over Christmas, but social distancing restrictions will still apply. There are hotels, inns, and Airbnbs where you could have a staycation and still enjoy the beach. Local councils will monitor the numbers of people on beaches, and restrict access when necessary.
Just ask them if they need a result of your rapid test or just a health declaration that you aren’t experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19. Beachgoers and travelers are advised to try and avoid local hotspots in order to thin out numbers and also hit the sand at different times of the day to avoid peak beach times.
So… Is Christmas canceled? The answer is a huge no. But, people should take precautions and stay incredibly safe since we are still in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.
Angela Grace P. Baltan is a Communication graduate from Colegio de San Juan de Letran. She doesn’t hesitate to be opinionated in analyzing movies and television series. As a writer, she uses her articles to advocate for feminism, gender equality, and mental health among others.