Christmas Comes Early in the Philippines

Homemade Christmas decorations in the Philippines.

My wife once told me that Christmas comes early in the Philippines.  She didn’t mean that the date it’s celebrated is any different than any other place, but just that people get into the Christmas spirit earlier than usual.

Where I’m from, the shopping spirit hits a bit early, but that real Christmas spirit doesn’t seem to catch on until at least the day after Thanksgiving.  Obviously, there is no Thanksgiving in the Philippines and while Halloween (trick-or-treating) is celebrated in some posh villages, Christmas is something that most every Filipino gets behind quickly and early.  I think it’s probably because it’s associated with the birth of Christ, and the Philippines has the highest population of Catholics of any country in the world.  It may also have something to do with the poor conditions in the country.  I’m sure a lot of families are looking for an excuse to feel cheerful about something.

As early as last week, we’ve been hearing Christmas songs playing on the speaker systems in some of the malls.  I even saw Christmas decorations for sale already, including plastic trees.

My wife says the rule of thumb in the Philippines is that if the month ends in “-ber”, then people will start looking forward to Christmas and set up decorations, some of which will remain up until February, if not all year round.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Another Christmas has come and gone.  Like last Christmas, I spent this one in Singapore.  The celebration was small.  It was just my wife and I, but we had a good time.  We had ham, veggies, toasted bread, a log cake and champagne.  We have enough left overs for a week’s worth of sandwiches!  We also spent some time watching Christmas movies and laughing over (or eating) presents we’d received.

We didn’t get to spend this Christmas with either of our families, which would’ve been great, but we have each other, and it’s nice to be able to spend the holidays with someone you love.

It’s also great to get a huge box of goodies from home in the mail on Christmas Eve!

The box has 3 Musketeers, Skor, Snickers, Quaker Instant Oatmeal Fruit & Cream Variety (80 packets), 2 boxes of thin mint cookies, two stocking-stuffer mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup packs, and some Chips A’hoy.

3 Musketeers is hard to find around here.  The only place I’ve ever seen it is in the duty free store on Clark Air Base in Pampanga Province, Philippines.  They had a few packs of the mini-bars.  I’ve also never seen Skor or those thin mints over here.  Skor is chocolate covered toffee.  There is Quaker Instant Oatmeal here, but only the plain kind.  That stuff sucks.  The flavors in the box we got are ‘Peaches & Cream’, ‘Blueberries & Cream’, and ‘Strawberries & Cream’.  It has little bits of fruit in it and has a sweeter, creamier taste.  You just dump it in a bowl and add hot water.  Cheap (in the US anyway), affordable, and a perfect breakfast.  Good for a dessert too.

Some of this stuff is available in Singapore.  You can get Reese’s Peanut Butter cups in import shops but they cost quite a bit.  I doubt if those two stocking-stuffer packs cost more than 3 bucks apiece in the US.  Here it’d probably go for 6 or 7 bucks.  As for the Chips A’hoy and Snickers, I think they must use a different recipe because the ones I get in Singapore (or the Philippines) just don’t taste quite as good as the ones from the US.

So, I got a box of American goodness that should last us for months.  Oh, and I got a pack of underwear.

I hope everyone else had a Merry Christmas as well!  Next up, New Years!

Another Round of Christmas Decoration Photos From Around Singapore

Back in November, I made a post with photos of the Christmas decorations on Orchard Road for this year. Since then, quite a few have been added, but I didn’t get shots of them all.  There’s just too many!  Orchard Road really turns into a sea of lights at this time of the year and helps you to forget about the hot weather and the lack of snow.  It helps get you in the ‘Christmas spirit’.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been snapping photos with my iPhone and camera when I saw things that stood out to me.  Here are a few more decorations from around Singapore:

This giant ball that opens and closes is in Terminal 3 at Changi International Airport.
This is the outside and inside of the Christmas tree in front of Ion Orchard mall on Orchard Road.
These are photos of the Christmas tree at Bugis Junction.  I really love the white and blue combination!
There were a series of dressed up deer characters along Orchard Road (including a creepy one with no eyes).  I had to wait a while, but managed to get this great photo taken!
Oops!  Someone dropped this tree in upside down!  This is at Tampines 1.

These three Christmas trees were walking around Tampines 1 offering up great photo opportunities to shoppers!
I think this will be my last Christmas in Singapore, so I was happy to have the chance to see so many of the decorations.  Christmas isn’t just about decorations, but it really sets the mood, and I’ve never seen it done better.  Bravo Singapore!

2009 Christmas Decorations Along Orchard Road, Singapore

On Saturday night at 7:30 PM the Christmas lights along Orchard Road were officially lit.  I wasn’t there for the ceremony, as I was laid up in the house with a mild case of food poisoning, but we can’t have everything right?  I decided to tough it out and get my butt up to Orchard Road on Sunday evening at least to have a look at this year’s decorations.

Last year the decorations were awesome!  I remember how impressed I was, and how incredible everything looked.  I had never seen such a huge display of Christmas decorations.  I don’t know if anyone does it as big as Singapore does when it comes to setting up lights.  If you’re not familiar with Singapore, Orchard Road is what you would call the ‘Main Street’ of Singapore.  It’s in the heart of the city-state and is home to the biggest, poshest malls Singapore has to offer, carrying brands like Docle & Gabbana, Prada, Lous Vuitton, etc.  It’s a popular place to go, even if you’re not planning on buying anything.  You could literally spend all evening cruising the malls and never go through the same place twice, unless you have to to exit the mall again of course.

Like I said, last year’s decorations were stunning, especially to me, since I’d never seen Orchard Road in all its Christmas glory before.  This year was no less thrilling.  In fact, I think the decorations this year were far more elegant and classy looking than last year’s.  I have no clue if it’s true or not but I have a feeling that the decorations are rotated, and that there’s a stock of them somewhere, so that each year there’s something different.  Who knows?  Maybe there are no ‘repeats’ and the road is decorated with fresh stuff every year?  I have a feeling that this year the planners were really pushing for that classy, elegant look, especially considering the fact that the APEC meeting is happening here in Singapore from the 5th through the 18th (?) of November.  There will be a lot of important political figures in Singapore during those dates, and the city-state has really ‘dressed to impress’.

Before continuing on, you may want to take a quick look at this post to see some of the decorations from 2008.

The photos below aren’t in order, exactly.  I matched some of them up according to decoration type.  We exited the MRT at Dhoby Ghaut Interchange and walked all the way down to Orchard Towers before turning back and using the Orchard MRT station under Ion to go home.

And now, a sample of 2009’s decorations (click for larger image):

The tree in Tampines Mall.  I know that’s not Orchard Road, but just thought I’d throw it in there, since it looks so nice.

Like I said earlier, everything has a real classy, professional, elegant look to it.  I wonder if everything is set out yet, though.  I seem to remember there being more displays last year.  Of course, it’s only early November, so perhaps more will be added as we get closer to Christmas.  We’ll definitely be making another visit to check!  Also, the place was crowded, but it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as when we went last year.  The atmosphere was somewhat subdued as well.  It didn’t feel overly cheerful.  On our next trip down there I think we’ll buy some ice cream and hot chocolate to get more into the spirit of the season. ^_^

I hope you enjoyed the photos!

Christmas Decorations Are Up on Orchard!

Update: Please read THIS article to see samples of the 2009 Christmas Decorations on Orchard.

Last year my wife and I had a great time walking around Orchard Road, looking at all of the Christmas decorations.  Singapore really goes all out when it comes to Christmas and Orchard Road becomes a sort of Winter Wonderland… minus the snow and the crisp breeze that is.  This is still the tropics, after all.  Despite that heat, the sheer number of decorations and how well they’re displayed can help you to forget for a moment that you’re sweating, and put you in the mood for wrapping gifts and drinking hot chocolate.  It’s a great time of year in Singapore!

And, based on my trip down to Orchard Road over the weekend (pictured above), the city isn’t wasting any time in getting things going this year.  We were downtown on October 31st and they were already getting the majority of of the pole and tree mounted decorations in place.  The decor looks like it’s going to be a different theme this year, which is really cool.  It would be boring if they simply set up the same stuff as last year.  In fact, I think the decorations look like they’ll be a lot better than last year’s.  I can’t wait to have a look at them!  I’m not sure if they’re being lit up after dark yet.  They certainly weren’t when we were there, though that might have been because of the storm.  I’m thinking it’s just preparations though, and they’ll get things going around the end of November.

I wanted to take some more photos but we went into Lucky Plaza to eat first and when we were done, it was like the bottom dropped out of the sky.  The thunder was sounding almost right after the lightning flashed and was so loud it was like having iron pots banged together repeatedly about half a foot from my ear.

(How to calculate your distance from a lightning strike using the sound of thunder.)

Here are some pictures of last year’s Christmas decorations: