How to celebrate a green Christmas

As an Italian living in the Philippines, I have come to love many traditions here in my second home.   Some are very different from my own culture, while others are remarkably similar. 

Christmas is one tradition that always bridges my two “home cultures,” as it is held in highest esteem both in Italy and in the Philippines.

One of the notable symbols of Christmas celebration in the Philippines is the Christmas lantern also known as parol.  While wreaths and boughs of pine may remind me of Christmas in the West, the parol gives me a true sense of place in the Philippines during the holidays, because it is unmistakable in its design identity.  It is also often made of materials that are reusable such as bamboo, wood and Japanese paper.

While lanterns of all shapes are found in countries around the world, the unique Filipino parol, which is often the work of dedicated craftsmen and artisans, speaks to the power of design in expressing identity and uniqueness.

Filipinos, like Italians, are also family-oriented and Christmas provides them the opportunity to bond and renew their ties.  Food is an important part of this. In both Filipino and Italian cultures, food is a way of expressing love and affection, both through its abundance at times like Christmas, and in the care and attention devoted to preparation of holiday meals. 

The influence of food has gone both ways between Italy and the Philippines. Italian cuisine has become quite familiar to Filipinos, influencing the most ubiquitous of party foods like spaghetti and macaroni.  Interestingly, we have seen the re-importation of this cultural idea from the Philippines to Italy when Filipino-owned Jollibee, a food chain famous for its hamburgers, chicken and spaghetti, first appeared recently in Milan and Rome, taking a uniquely Filipino take on pasta, and bringing it back to its own root.

Christmas this year will be memorable, as it marks the country’s emergence from massive challenges for the past 2.5 years brought by COVID-19 pandemic. The Philippines is gradually recovering from the pummeling of the economy. The partnership between government and the private sector proved to be an important element to enable the country to bounce back from the economic doldrums. I believe Christmas in 2022 signifies hope to many all around the world. After all, Christmas means hope, love and solidarity. 

Although this is the season of joy, we still need to be cautious in these “interesting” times as the challenges of the pandemic are still hovering over us. We still need to practice health and safety protocols, and comply with authorities.

But, as the situation keeps on improving, hopefully, Filipinos are now looking forward to celebrating Christmas with their family, friends and loved ones. I hope this means there will also be livelier and lovelier celebration of Christmas traditions than in the past two years.  

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