In the Philippines where the Christmas season is celebrated the longest (4 months – yes, you read that right!) September has its way of uplifting the Filipino mood as this signals the start of the local holiday season.
In case you’re wondering, “-ber months” refer to the last four months of the year that end in “-ber”. The onset of “-ber months” triggers festive moods in the country.
Here are some highlights that make -ber months special for Pinoys:
As if Mariah Carey’s recent post on social media isn’t proof enough, Filipinos love their Christmas carols. The American pop star acknowledged her Pinoy fans for the spike in the number of streams of her hit song, “All I Want For Christmas Is You”. This time of the year, the familiar soothing voice of Jose Mari Chan fills the airwaves with his proverbial holiday songs “Christmas in Our Hearts” and “A Perfect Christmas”. It’s entertaining how Pinoys have fondly associated the singer with countless memes even before the holiday season begins. Many other endearing Christmas tunes that give a warm feeling include Gary V’s “Pasko na Sinta Ko”, Ariel Rivera’s “Sana Ngayong Pasko”, and APO Hiking Society’s “Himig ng Pasko”. Street carolers, usually kids, also sing time-honored Christmas carols as they go from house to house in exchange for treats.
Health perspective: Did you know that Christmas music can be beneficial for your health? According to the Mayo Clinic, listening to music such as holiday tunes can elevate your mood, reduce heart rate, decrease stress, and lower blood pressure.
As early as September, malls around the country attract shoppers with their beautiful Yuletide displays, spectacular fireworks, and colorful light displays that fascinate children and adults alike. Some notable holiday displays around Metro Manila include MOA’s Sparkle of Lights Show, Ayala Triangle Gardens’ Festival of Lights, and Manila’s Policarpio Street. Buildings, streets, and other establishments in the metropolis also sparkle at night with festive decorations and lights. Churches around the country also contribute to the festive atmosphere by putting up beautiful lanterns and life-size nativity scenes. Pinoys also display holiday decorations at home. These are just some of the reasons why Christmas is a feast for the eyes.
Health perspective: Seeing beautiful things such as holiday decor and light displays opens up a broad range of emotions including awe, surprise, and fascination. Psychology Today states that this aesthetic experience has a positive emotional effect on your mood. In addition, it can indirectly promote one’s well-being and health. Some of the benefits of aesthetic experience include decrease in stress levels, improvement of memory, and increase in social connection.
“Malamig ang simoy ng hangin” … Another wonderful thing about the “-ber months” is the cold weather. In a country where it is often hot and humid, the cooler months offer a welcome relief. As Christmas draws nearer, mornings and evenings get colder which is conducive for cozying up indoors. During this season, it’s hard to resist staying in bed longer and snuggling under the blanket, thus the term “bed weather”.
Health perspective: Research suggests that colder temperatures can boost quality of sleep. Getting good sleep improves the function of the body and lowers your risk for serious health problems, like heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
The long Christmas season in the Philippines equates to countless eating occasions. Holiday get-togethers with family, friends, and co-workers will not be complete without your favorite Christmas dishes. Imagine eating noche buena staples like hamon, lechon, spaghetti, queso de bola, fruit and macaroni salad, fruit cake, tsokolate (Filipino hot chocolate), kastanyas (chestnuts), and the list goes on.
Health perspective: The overflowing food during the holiday season can result in unwanted weight gain. Don’t worry, you can still enjoy your favorite Christmas dishes while preventing weight gain. One good way to do this is to control your portions. Instead of depriving yourself of eating certain food during noche buena, you can sample a bit of everything, but keep the portions small and enjoy them at a slow pace. Another tip is to scale back what you ate in your other meals. For example, if you meet up with your friends and have a big meal earlier in the day, you can have a lighter meal in the evening.
Filipinos are known for their kindness and hospitality. These traits also extend up to how they celebrate the holiday season. Pinoys enjoy giving Christmas gifts which include the practice of monito Monita, and gift exchange amongst family, friends, classmates, and co-workers. Gifts are exchanged during family gatherings and parties. Some godfathers and godmothers also practice giving aguinaldo or monetary gifts to their godchildren.
Health perspective: Seeing the joy on the recipient’s face after receiving a gift can give a natural high. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the act of giving gifts prompts the brain to secrete “feel good” chemicals such as serotonin (regulates your mood), dopamine (activates a sense of pleasure), and oxytocin (builds connection with others).
Considering the unpredictability of our times, one extremely useful gift you can give to your loved ones is a prepaid emergency health card. You can’t put a price tag on the peace of mind that comes with it.
Filipinos love “-ber months” because it’s a sign that Christmas is just a few months away. The highlights mentioned above make these months worth looking forward to.
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