‘Ber’ Months: The Start of Christmas Season

September is the start of BER-months. September, October November, December are the last four months of the year that culminates in the celebration of Christmas and the welcoming of the New Year. Times might be hard these days, but Filipinos have reason to smile as the cool “ber” months, ushering in the blissful traditional countdown to Christmas. This is the last quarter of the year and soon we bid 2011 goodbye and say hello to 2012.

Mornings will get colder these days. When the first week of the month of September begins, you will start to hear Christmas songs play on the radio, in the mall or even at home, and almost every year and children start to sing Christmas carols. Then a week or two later you start seeing parols and Christmas lights in houses and buildings and street lamps.  Until you reach December where the spirit of Christmas is just alive and visible everywhere.

We celebrate a lot of traditions during this time. There’s the Misa de Gallo (Simbang Gabi) which starts from December 16 and ends nine days later on the eve of Christmas. Usually the Misa de Gallo happens at around 4:00 in the morning but lately, the churches are also conducting Misa de Gallo at around 9 or 10 in the evening. Those who complete the nine days are said to have their wishes granted after the nine days. Christmas parties are another tradition here. These parties will not be complete without the Kris Kringle or the exchange gifts. Here, the participants draw out the names of their partners beforehand then exchange the gifts during the party. There are also contests, parlor games and song and dance numbers to make the party more fun and exciting. Christmas Day (December 25) is a celebration by itself. Families go to mass on December 24 then gather around their homes at the stroke of midnight to partake of the Noche Buena food. The New Year’s Eve is another tradition within this season. To celebrate the incoming New Year, Filipinos stay awake the night of December 31st to prepare food, light up fireworks and firecrackers and eat the Media Noche at the stroke of midnight. Stage plays are also much anticipated during this time. The reenactment of what happened during Jesus’ birth is a common theme for these plays. Sometimes, even, the couples who play Mary and Joseph go around the neighborhood and knocked on people’s doors (pre-arranged of course) where they get subsequently turned down before they found their place on a ‘manger’ which happens to be inside the parish church. This is called Panunuluyan. Lastly, Christmas carols and songs round up our Christmas traditions. Caroling is a very common tradition, where the singers are rewarded with coins, or food or both. In fact, caroling can sometimes become the preferred activity to raise funds for groups. Whatever traditions it may be, for the Filipinos, the Ber months mean Christmas is around the corner and it certainly something to look forward to.  Welcome to September everyone, looking forward to October, November and especially December! Christmas is a time of gift-giving, time to spend with our love ones, families and friends. Hoping each and every one of us will have a BERry, merry and a blessed Christmas this year. The Catholic Church always reminds the faithful about the real meaning of the Christmas season.“It’s all about love. God gave His only son to save us. That’s the meaning of Christmas.’’

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