How do you celebrate Christmas?
If there is an occasion that is anticipated and celebrated in the Philippines the most, it would be Christmas. But have you ever wondered how other countries in the Southeast Asia observe this joyous day? We have compiled the practices and traditions of some ASEAN nations in celebrating Christmas. Here are some of them:
Cambodia is a predominantly Buddhist nation so even if some shops and restaurants put up Christmas decorations in December, Christmas celebration remains a private and intimate affair. As part of their observance of Christmas, people go to church to pray then exchange gifts and Christmas cards with their family and friends afterwards.
“I am happy to receive a Christmas card from my sponsor for the first time,” Silang, a sponsored child from Cambodia, said. “I showed it to my parents and I put in my bag. I want my sponsor to visit me and I want to say hello to them and I wish my sponsor good luck all the time.”
Fancy butter cookies are a staple on the Christmas dining table in Indonesia. To commemorate the joyous occasion on Christmas Eve, churches around the country stage plays that reenact the Nativity. Children can also dress as Santa Claus and sing carols. Gifts are distributed over dinner.
Christmas in Lao is a simple and quiet event. On the eve of Christmas, Church goers gather to sing songs and reflect on Jesus’ birth. They cap their observance of the occasion by sharing food and playing games.
You’ll know that the Christmas season has arrived in Malaysia once yuletide decorations are put up in shopping malls and restaurants. Children go from house to house to sing carols while families spend Christmas Eve drinking wine and eating cake.
World Vision-supported children from a village in Myanmar are happy to receive greeting cards from their sponsors.
Christmas in Myanmar is celebrated by remembering the story of the Nativity, singing carols, going to midnight mass and giving gifts.
Unlike the Philippines, Christmas in Thailand is not considered a holiday. Despite this, people still get to celebrate by singing Christmas hymns, exchanging gifts, and wishing each other well.
“I like the wish from my sponsor the most,” Natthapong, a boy from Thailand, shares. “Thank you for your support!”
Most of the Christmas festivities in Vietnam happens on Christmas Eve, where people attend midnight mass and exchange ‘bûche de Noël’ or chocolate cake. Before that, families decorate their homes with images of the Nativity.
Christmas tunes begin to fill the air as soon as September starts but celebration in the Philippines begins by attending “simbang gabi,” or 9-day midnight masses that conclude on Christmas Eve. Filipino families celebrate Christmas by exchanging gifts and feasting on Noche Buena, where they serve the best meals they can.
Bea, a sponsored child from Zamboanga, used to serve adobong manok on Christmas Eve. But when she became a sponsored child, she got to eat spaghetti and salad too through her child sponsor.
“During Christmas, we hang a lantern on our door and sing carols with my siblings,” Bea shared. “We are very happy to receive a Noche Buena gift because we get to celebrate with more food during Christmas. I hope World Vision would give us a Noche Buena gift again this year.”World Vision/November 14, 2017