Christmas is a curious time in the Philippines. The country as a whole loves the occasion – a big celebration with one’s family, with food, singing and tacky decorations all over, that hits a nerve with the national mindset here.
What is really unique is that this Christian celebration has been loaded up with northern-European, Anglo-Saxon imagery before it made its way here in its present form, which – so I speculate – happened during the American occupation of the Philippines in the 1st half of the 20th century. The Filipinos decorate their homes, offices, dive shops and public buildings with Santa Clauses, Rudolf Reindeers and snow-covered Christmas pine trees. And all of that fake-snow-y decorating aktschn is taking place in a tropical country, without any snow, ever, and by decorators who probably haven’t seen any real snow in their whole lives.
So I get to admire Christmas trees hung with dozens of Santa Clauses in thick winter clothes, riding through the fake snow on their little sleds, while I am sweating from the tropical heat. On a trip to the mall I see brown-skinned sales-ladies with Reindeer costumes; these ladies would probably start complaining in the mid 20s Celsius about the cold weather, but impersonate the subarctic ungulates with confidence. And since the Filipino Christmas decoration designers have likely never seen real snow or real pine trees, their creativity ranges wide – why not come up with a metallic pink fake pine tree (anyone who has grown up around pine trees probably wouldn’t have such an idea)? The aesthetics of Filipino Christmas are truly an impressive cultural mix. What would be comparable? If Austrian mountain villagers had a yearly celebration centering around palm-trees and tropical fishes, which had made it into their valleys by some past accident of world history. None of them would have ever visited the tropics – Then, the Austrian mountain people would be given a healthy supply of gaudily colored plastics and the artistic freedom to interpret the palm tree & reef fish festival as they liked – the result would be comparable to the Filipino Christmas decoration bonanza I am observing right now.