Christmas is just a couple days away, but I feel like it can't come soon enough.
No place celebrates Christmas like the Philippines, so me, being the "grinch" that I am, could not have come to a worse place for Christmas.
Don't get me wrong... I don't hate Christmas. No matter the reason you celebrate Christmas, whether it's the birth of your Lord and Savior, getting together with family and friends, time off from work, Santa Claus, parties, having an excuse as to why you're getting fatter... whatever, Christmas is great. What I don't like about Christmas is the two month build up to get to that one day, and everything that's involved.
I don't like Christmas carols in October, or November... December is acceptable. Unless your name is Alvin and you and your friends are chipmunks, then I don't care what time of year it is, you better stay the hell away from me.
I hate cheesy Christmas decorations.
Christmas tree? Of course!
Stockings? My favorite!
Lawn ornaments? Especially the inflatable variety?? Unacceptable...
(My nightmare before Christmas...)
Not to mention the traffic, and the hordes of people at the mall. It does not make for a "holly or jolly Christmas" and it does not make me want to "grab a cup of cheer" unless by "cheer" they mean scotch, and then yes, I will have three large cups of cheer. (Actually, that totally makes sense... is that what that songs means??) And all you people standing in line at midnight the night after Thanksgiving you have lost your freakin' minds!
Most importantly I hate the stress of gift giving. Everyone is always complaining about getting their Christmas shopping done, and what to buy, and how they waited to the last minute, and their Christmas budget. Blah Blah Blah. It's excruciating. Is that what Christmas has become? Because if you ask me, it doesn't sound like, "the most wonderful time of the year."
Which reminds me, if I only see you once a year at Christmas, you aren't getting a present from me. First of all, I don't know what I would possibly get you, so the present you would receive, if I did buy something, would probably be some generic crappy present that would mean very little to you. Secondly, 90% of the people I know don't need anything anyway, and do you know how hard it is to buy for someone who already has everything? Shouldn't Christmas be more about helping others who could actually use it, and less about buying your great-aunt Sofie, who you never see, who you don't even like, and are embarrassed that you are related to, a present that will end up in the back of some closet along side every other piece of junk she's kept for the past seven decades? What a waste....
So before I conclude my Christmas tirade, and step down off this lovely soap box... I would just like to reiterate, that it is the behavior that this billion dollar industry called, Christmas, encourages that I don't like, not the things that Christmas is supposed to be about. The holiday season can really be a great time if you focus on the right things...
Also, I don't feel like receiving hate mail for my lack of Christmas enthusiasm. So just so we are clear... I don't hate baby Jesus... I don't even hate Santa Claus... although.. I don't really care for elves.... or snow, but there's no snow in the Philippines so not really an issue.
Whew... That might have been the longest tangent of all time...
So back to Christmas in the Philippines....
The Christmas decorations in our neighborhood had already started to go up when I got back from the states, the first week in November. It started out small just a couple here and there, and then it started to spread like a bad case of the chicken pox.
I fully intended on not participating....
The last couple weeks in November, the neighbors started coming around asking when I was going to put up Christmas lights...
I don't even think about Christmas until after December 1st. My neighbors didn't really understand this answer... so I finally just said I'd put them up soon. That made them feel better.
Plus, I didn't necessarily want them to know that the grinch lived on their street.
Two hundred dollars later we had Christmas lights and decorations...
Me: What's wrong with our lights?
Lee: They are LED lights.
Me: That's what they are supposed to look like?
Lee: I guess.
Me: It's ugly... but... we already put them up... and they won't take them back... which sucks because they were like $10 a strand.
Lee: $10 a strand?!
Me: Wow, I really hate them. We are like one step away from being the Griswold's.
Lee: I've never seen Christmas Vacation...
Me: What?! You've never seen Christmas Vacation? Who are you? What kind of a childhood did you have? Get on the computer... we need to get it.
Lee: Eh... I think I've seen parts of it. I just don't really like any of the National Lampoon movies....
Me: WHAT! You probably just don't get get it... It's a level of humor you just don't understand.
.... You just don't have the intellect -
(At the same time)
Lee: Yes... I don't have the intelligilect -
Me: Wait... did you just say "intelligilect?"
Lee: Yes.. I was going to say intelligence... then you said intellect... and it got all confused...
Me: Yes, well it's obvious now that you do have the intelligilect for National Lampoon movies... my mistake.
Lee: Shut up.
The symbol of Christmas in the Philippines... apparently... you can't walk five feet without seeing one of these stars.
This was at the beginning... Christmas decorations have since multiplied and my camera doesn't do justice to the neon glow of our neighborhood.
In addition to the plethora of Christmas decor, the Philippines has acquired more than a fair share of beggars in the last few months, and they come in all varieties.
Lee: I saw a guy with no pants on walking down the street today.
Me: Really? You don't seem very surprised. Is it normal for you to see naked men on your drive to work?
Lee: No, I was told he is here for Christmas.
Apparently, the native people living in the mountains make their way down around Christmas time in order to beg for money. The police try to enforce a proper dress code, although many aren't concerned with things like pants.
Many children come down from the mountain as well. Thankfully, they come fully dressed but they bring drums. They are quite persistent... running through the streets, tapping their drums and jumping on jeepneys to seek out the generous individuals.
This type of begging is one thing... it's an entirely different situation when people come to your house, ring your doorbell and disguise it as caroling.
In the Philippines children, and sometimes adults, go around the neighborhoods singing Christmas carols... sort of a lost art in the states. But here, they expect something in return... and they want money.
I was shocked.
First of all, I've had enough of this whole singing bit. Not to mention they are singing Christmas carols... only one of which I understand... and apparently it's the only one they know in english. Do you know how many times I've heard, "Wish we wish you a Merry Christmas?"
Secondly, I'm not going to pay someone to perform a service I don't want in the first place. Especially when it isn't deserved.
Lee and I walking around the neighborhood, taking pictures of the lights....
Kids: Carol Ma'am
Kids: Carol Ma'am
Me: hmm... Hi.
Kids: Caroling Ma'am.
Me: Well, then go carol.
Kids: Carol Ma'am. (holding their hands out.)
Lee: You aren't even singing
Me: You've got to be kidding... you can't just say carol.
Kids: Carol Ma'am.
Me: Are they serious?
This is the kind of crap I'm talking about. We had been told that once you start to give out money, they will be back every night ringing your doorbell repeatedly until you answer. Lucky for us... we don't have one. Suckers.
But they still "sing" at the top of their lungs and bang on the gate... so Lee and I have gotten in the habit of hiding.
Lee: Psst. Psst.
Me: What? (Walking toward the living room)
Lee: Don't. Move.
Me: Why? Is there a spider?
Lee: No. Listen...
Kids: Caroling! Caroling!
I hid behind the wall... while Lee stayed very still, sitting in front of the window, wide eyed on the couch...
Lee: Do you think they can see us?
Me: I don't know... just wait... maybe they will leave.
After a week of hiding we decided there had to be a better way...
Me: Maybe we should just sit on the balcony and throw water balloons at them...
Lee: No... then it would turn into a game... and they would always come back just so they could dodge water balloons... Dog poop?
Me: Can we light it on fire?
After another week they started to wear on our defenses... but I had decided that once it got a little closer to Christmas we would start handing out some coins.
Lee runs in from outside...
Lee: I saw some coming! I think they saw me.
I immediately hid behind the kitchen door, and then we heard the little voices. But they were actually singing... and they sounded so small...
Lee's eyes got really big...
"No," I whispered.
Then he gave me the sad look...
"No. Not yet."
Then came the pouty bottom lip...
"Ugh! Seriously? We said we weren't handing out money for another week!"
After that we started to give out coins more regularly and it was kind of a relief not to have to hide so much. And we were able to sit out on our balcony again, which rocked!
Me: So... I brought the jar of coins up here, because I figured we'd get carolers... but I don't want to go down there to give it to them... do you know how many times I'll have to walk up and down the stairs? Is it bad if we just throw them from here?
After the first two groups of carolers we had successfully thrown coins at children without causing any major injuries...
Lee: Yeah... I can't do this... I feel like a complete ass throwing money off the balcony.
Me: You're right. Damn.
So we digressed... back to hiding.
"We wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Haapppy Neeewww Yeeaaar!"