OFW Christmas Away from the Philippines

Filipinos are excited about “ber” months. In the Philippines, you know it’s the beginning of the Christmas season when you hear the classic Christmas songs of Jose Mari Chan playing in the malls and the radio stations. Chan’s songs like “Christmas in Our Hearts,” has become part of any Filipino’s music MP3 playlist or CD compilation.

Soon houses and establishments would be putting up Christmas decorations and lights to signal the coming and most awaited season of the year. This would mean months of planning and scheduling of Christmas parties to organize and to attend to. For parents and godparents, it also means a period of careful budgeting for gifts to be given away to inaanaks and children. Well, as they say, Christmas is primarily for children. For the working Filipino, it may be all about what to buy as a reward for one’s self after a year of hard work.

READ ALSO: OFW Parenting: The pain of leaving your newborn child

Missing home during Christmas

Nothing beats Christmas celebration in the Philippines. Aside from the fact that it is considered the longest in its preparation and most festive in its celebration, foreigners who visit the country during this season can feel so much warmth and love from Filipinos. And that’s what a lot of OFWs missed so much.

Noche Buena, office and school parties, shopping and dinner at the malls, Simbang Gabi, puto bumbong and suman, and fireworks are just some of the many reasons why Christmas would be totally different for a lot of OFWs who have to celebrate Christmas alone or with fellow OFWs in countries where it is not much of a big deal or a yearly tradition. Lucky are those who have the chance to celebrate it the Filipino way in countries where it is observed in a festive manner. Perhaps, this is the only season of the year wherein, perhaps, almost all OFWs would be battling homesickness just simply remembering their families and friends during the merriest time of the year. Not only that, OFWs miss their customary acts when celebrating Christmas in their unique ways.

For instance, Jafe Sepulvida, a customer service representative in Dubai, misses so much his yearly tradition during Christmas Eve.

“Christmas is the most celebrated time of the year in the Philippines. Being away from home, there are so many things that I miss so much about this yuletide season such as the food, people, lights, fireworks and among others. However, there is one thing in particular that I used to do during this season that I so miss doing. I used to give out food and clothes to street children on Christmas Eve, as part of the celebration of the season of giving and sharing,” he reveals.

Carl Lairz, a Filipino seafarer, has a different take on what he misses so much about Christmas. For him, Christmas is literally a yuletide season where families from different places gather together to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. He says, “I think that’s what I missed the most because if you are an OFW you don’t get a chance to have that kind of gathering which is meaningful for both family and birth of our savior.”

Celebrating Christmas the Filipino way

Despite the fact that there are of thousands of OFWs who never get the chance to celebrate Christmas in their homeland every year, they still have the spirit and they can find ways to celebrate it in Filipino style in a foreign land together with other OFWs. You can never break the celebratory spirit of a joyful Filipino.

Although most of the time and there’s a chance he and his fellow Filipino seafarers are on board, Carl and his mates never miss celebrating Christmas in a heartbeat.

“We celebrate Christmas just like how we celebrate in the Philippines with gatherings, preparation of food and happy events to at least enliven the Christmas spirit as much as possible while being away from families. Workmates gather and enjoy as well for that said celebration.”

Jafe has the same experience. He says, “Currently, I am working in Dubai and it is really different celebrating Christmas in a foreign land especially in the Middle East where Islam is a dominant religion. Christmas is like an ordinary day where I celebrate it with common acquaintances and friends from work and flatmates. It is oftentimes celebrated in the apartment with home-cooked meals, such as spaghetti, adobo, lumpia and other Filipino dishes, eaten together as part of the traditional Noche Buena.”

Nothing can really dampen the Christmas spirit of an OFW. Wherever an OFW is privileged to work, he still brings with him his festive mood and Pinoy spirit to make most out of a Christmas celebration while being away from home.

READ ALSO: Long Distance Relationship: The past and present struggles of OFWs

Photo Credit: Pixabay