Christmas parties, family reunions, holiday escapades—these are some of the customs we Filipinos would spend during the Yuletide seasons. Apart from reuniting with our families after months-long of the hustle and bustle, this time of the year would have been our most anticipated weeklong of relaxation and time off from everything.
But as we settle into what is now called the New Normal, all of these festivities need to be canceled to steer clear from contracting the highly contagious coronavirus disease, also known as COVID-19.
A Silent Christmas
In an interview published in South China Morning Post (SCMP), retired nutritionist Gilda Cabrera shared how she and her family of nine used to gather in her Manila home for Christmas annually. However this year, the 61-year-old said there would be no party.
“It’s going to be a silent Christmas,” Cabrera told SCMP. “I will not invite anybody. You don’t know who’s infected.”
And she’s right. Not even your closest family member who’s living away from home is not guaranteed to be COVID-free and can possibly carry the virus as an asymptomatic patient (unless they tested negative and diligently followed the minimum health protocols).
For generations, December has been a month-long series of jolly festivities beginning September. For us Filipinos, “the holiday is an exuberant combination of customs and traditions from Philippine, American, Spanish and Chinese cultures: a melange of Santa Claus, Christmas trees, caroling, star lanterns, midnight masses, late evening feasts and gift packets of cash to godchildren.” Above all, it is a celebration that brings families together.
Citing from the same SCMP article, according to Dr. Ricardo Jose, a history professor at the University of the Philippines, “the worst Christmas was in 1941 when the war started. Manila was bombed at that time; the Japanese were invading. Nobody could feel Christmas.”
“The years after that [under the occupation of the Japanese] were very difficult. Big religious festivals were banned, processions were banned.”
For us Filipinos to continue celebrating Christmas and not let the disease play Ebenezer Scrooge, we would have to resort to other means of gathering this holiday season.
Part of our new normal today is communicating remotely to almost everything—from catching up with friends to attending classes and business meetings—which would also mean keeping our yearly festivities online.
Aside from parties and gatherings, health authorities also encourage the public to attend Misa De Gallo online to lessen the chances of crowding in Churches. It would be unusually different, but it would be the safest option there is, especially for those who are under the risk category (children, pregnant women, senior citizens, etc.).
If you and your family are staying under one roof, you are lucky! For those who live afar and separately, the best option for you would be through video-conferencing platforms such as Zoom, FB Messenger, or Google Meet.
Exchanging gifts could be a little tricky. But thanks to the online convenience shops and delivery apps offered, as well as to our hardworking delivery personnel, that would be less of a problem now.
Thankfully, staying home for the holidays does not mean staying alone on this special day of the year.
Experts warn COVID-spike this Holiday Season
The University of the Philippines Octa Research Group noted in its latest report published on December 8 the spike in COVID-19 cases as Christmas day approaches.
Experts said that there were places where increases in new cases were observed from December 1 to 7 due to “community transmission exacerbated by the significant rise in mobility within and among provinces”.
“More concerning were provinces that also continue to have high positivity rates such as Quezon, Benguet, Isabela, and Cagayan for the period from November 30 to December 6,” they stated.
The group listed the following areas as “provinces of concern” for the period December 1 to 7:
- Davao del Sur
- Ilocos Norte
They added that this could be due to “poor border controls, sparse testing, and leaky quarantine measures” as a result of the opening up of the economy over the last few months.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has also urged everyone not to let their guards down despite the “increased mobility of people because of the holiday season.”
The group warned the public that a spike in new cases is expected due to the “holiday rush.”
“This is especially likely in urban centers like NCR [National Capital Region]. This is expected based on the experience of countries such as the US and Canada that have recently celebrated Thanksgiving,” the experts said.
While promising vaccines are now on the rollout for general use, our fight against COVID-19 still hasn’t stopped. We still should not let our guards down, and sadly, we all have to postpone our yearly traditions and limit holiday celebrations with the people we live with under one roof. This is a small sacrifice we all have to make, in exchange for a more prosperous next year. *cross fingers*
For now, the best Christmas gift you can give to everyone is to stay home and wear a mask. Happy Holidays!