It’s the day before Christmas and all throughout the Christian world, people are looking forward to tomorrow. Actually, many Filipinos have been doing this since September 1. There were even some who began looking forward to the next Christmas right after the season ended with Three Kings in January. But most truly began observing Chistmas with the Simbang Gabi last December 16.
Christmas is one holiday we share with the vast Christian world around the planet. We had 350 years with Spain and nearly 50 years with America, and so today some 90 percent of the Philippine population is Christian. They share in the various traditions and various ways of celebrating Christmas, including Santa Claus, Christmas trees, gift-giving, festive music, and lights.
There are so many bountiful ways of celebrating Christmas that long before the day itself comes, the celebration begins. The enjoyment reach a peak on the day before Christmas itself. Then in the closing hours of Christmas Eve, the merriment slowly gives way to the realization that it is here. Christmas is here. The day Jesus was born is here.
In Bethlehem, where it all happened over 2,000 years ago, a procession will make its way today, Christmas Eve, ending at the threshold of the Orthodox Basilica of the Nativity. Inside the church is a passageway to a cave where it is believed Christ was born.
Catholic services are being today in the St. Catherine Church next to the Basilica. Christmas Eve rites are celebrated by various Christian churches in Bethlehem — in the Anglican Cathedral, the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, various Protestant churches, Ethiopians, Armenians, and so many others. There are even special services in the shepherds’ fields, where an angel first announced to the world the birth of Christ.
Among Western children, possibly the most popular figure at Christmastime is Santa Claus, for he is the man who brings them gifts. Possibly the most popular poem about Santa begins: “T’was the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse …..”
Tonight is the night before Christmas – Christmas Eve., December 24. Eves are celebrated for holidays that are simply too big to be limited to one day. A week from today, we have another one of those big holidays, with an eve so big that it has its own celebration—New Year’s Eve.
Tomorrow, it will be Christmas Day, the truly big day for the Christian world. Buy today, Christmas Eve will have its own celebration. The last of the nine Simbang Gabi masses will be celebrated in churches all over the Philippines. Families will gather for traditional Noche Buena dinners to night, so that when the clock strikes 12, they will all be together for Christmas Day.