Filipinos have indelibly marked the month of September as the gateway to hail in good cheer. The four last months of the year are dubbed as the “Ber months,” and for the Filipino, entering into this period validates the feels for Christmas and the New Year. Suddenly, the malls and your favorite radio station play the Jose Mari Chan and Joey Albert classics. One or two houses down the street have put up Christmas lights.
As Filipino Catholics, before tingling ourselves with the Christmas feels, we should not forget these following faith and hope essentials:
1. THE CHRISTMAS SEASON STARTS BY THE NIGHT OF DECEMBER 24, AT CHRISTMAS EVE. The Filipino reckoning of the Christmas season is known as the longest Christmas season in the world. However, the main propagator for the Christmas celebration, the Church, still officially ushers in the Christmas season in the Christmas vigil (the night of December 24) that lasts till the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Does this mean that it is of misplaced cheer that people are happy of Christmas prior to Christmas day? No it isn’t, the Church does not forbid people to anticipate Christmas happily. In fact, the third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday (Joyful Sunday), which is just two weeks before Christmas Day. We are predisposed to be joyful as Christians, but it is only on Christmas day that the Church, in her liturgy, acclaims GLORIA IN EXCELSIS DEO (‘Glory to God in the highest!’)
2. THERE ARE STILL MEANINGFUL FESTIVITIES TO CELEBRATE. At the month of September itself, the Church celebrates the birthday of Mama Mary (September 8). October is known to be as the month of the Holy Rosary, on which feast day is celebrated in October 7. By November, we celebrate the feasts of all the saints (Nov 1) and all the poor souls (Nov 2) alongside with our commemoration of our dear departed. And at the last Sunday of the first part of Ordinary Time, we celebrate the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. After that is the opening up of another season, the Advent Season, on which within four weeks we anticipate the Christmas celebration. Within Advent, on December 8, falls the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, an important feast which is intertwined with the essence of Christmas.
3. SAME -BER ENDING DOES NOT MEAN SIMILARITY OF MEANING. September actually has nothing to do with Christmas, much more with December. The -Ber suffix in them came from the German suffixes to Latin numerical nouns septem (seven), octo (eight), novem (nine) and decem (ten), denoting the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth month of the old Calendar. Before Julius Caesar introduced his revision of the Roman Calendar, the calendars being used in Europe starts from March 1, thus making the sequence of the months for September to December to connote on their names.
Thinking that September as a herald for Christmas, is far from truth. What really reasonably heralds Christmas is the Advent Season, from the term itself (advent = coming). So, over-exaggeration on September does not give justice to history and etymology.
Just keep the excitement mild.
4. PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE. HARVEST TIME YIELDS BETTER FRUITS As Qoheleth puts it, “He has made everything appropriate in its time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). There is beauty in moderation and patience, since in every season the Lord appropriately gives what the season has to offer and enjoy.
We can play as much songs as we like, and put up Christmas decors as early as September, but the duration of Septmeber to December is time enough to snuff out the Christmas spirit and the sense of seasonality. We had seen it in many places, on which we see houses and bars neglecting to keep the Christmas ornaments away, thus voiding the meaning of such ornaments, reducing them to mere “displays” and “decoration,” leaving them soulless of their true purpose.
Let us learn how to celebrate the celebration in their own times and opportunities. God bless us all.