It’s my 8th Christmas in Thailand. Since it is a Buddhist country, Christmas isn’t acknowledged as an official holiday around here. December 25 is a typical working day. We do the same routine like all other days except that our hearts are extra heavier because most of us long to spend this day with our family and friends back home in the Philippines.
Nonetheless, we Filipinos aren’t “Pinoys” for nothing. We always find ways and we make the most of everything we have. If we can’t come home for Christmas then we bring “Paskong Pinoy” wherever we are.
Here’s a list of how we Filipinos celebrate Christmas in Thailand:
Christmas trees, “Belen”, and “Parols” are always part of our “Pinoy” Christmas tradition and we bring them right here in Thailand. Here in Phitsanulok, we start putting up our Christmas trees and hang our “parols” as early as September. The nativity figures aren’t readily available so some of us hand-crafted our own to complete the Christmas decoration ensemble.
More than decorations, these things mean more to us. The “Belen” or the nativity scene reminds us of that glorious scene when the baby Jesus was presented with the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. It teaches us about humility and the beauty of giving. The Christmas lantern, locally known to us in the Philippines as “parol”, is a symbol of that bright star which guided the wise men to find Jesus in that lowly stable in Betlehem. It indicates hope for us OFW’s that we may find our way back to the arms of our families.
Sharing is Loving
Christmas is a time to share. For the Saint Nicholas Church Foreign Community (SNCFC) in Phitsanulok, Christmas is an opportunity to reach out to the less-privileged communities in the province. This outreach program started as a simple gift giving to Hmong Hill Tribe children 12 years ago. Since then, it has become an annual outreach mission of the growing members of the community.
We also share our talents to the community. Annually, we take part in the Christmas activity organised by the municipal government which is the lighting of the giant Christmas tree in the town plaza. We share the gift of singing as we render traditional Christmas carols to our Thai audience. It is the closest thing we could get to our traditional “caroling” at home, but it gives us the vibe.
Misa de Gallo
Misa de Gallo or Simbang Gabi is not just a tradition; it is a spiritual preparation for Christmas. We, in Phitsanulok, are fortunate enough to have a Filipino priest to keep this beautiful practice alive even if we are away from home. Thanks to Rev. Fr. Ronnie Torres, OMI.
During these days, we also get the chance to enjoy traditional delicacies such as puto, suman, pansit, and arozcaldo that the community members generously prepare. The food is only a bonus because completing the nine-day mass is the ultimate goal. We believe that if we complete the series, our prayer requests will be granted. You could only bet on what every OFW wishes for every Christmas season.
The list could go on and on. Think of Christmas parties, karaoke parties, barbecue parties and dinners, etc. However, none of these could ever compare to celebrating Christmas with the whole family in the Philippines.
Ah…iba pa rin ang Pasko sa Pinas.