Gray Matter


Special Occasions Shared by the United States and the Philippines

RT Cunningham | September 10, 2020 (UTC) | Culture

special-occasionsDue to the many years of contact between the United States and the Philippines, both countries tend to share a lot of holidays and special occasions. I could write about them separately, but I won’t. The only ones I write about separately are those that aren’t shared.

I can’t write about the special occasions I’m not familiar with. There plenty of them in both countries and I don’t actively seek them out just to write about them. I’m not sure if my wife, Josie, knows any more about them than I do. She’s spent more of her life in the United States than the Philippines.

New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve has always been a cause for celebration. Out with old and in with the new and all that jazz, you know? While the people of Olongapo in the Philippines still celebrate, only those willing to break the law will use any type of firecracker, pyrotechnic device or other banned noisemaker.

The city banned the boga in December 2006 but not before the neighborhood children annoyed me with many versions of it for almost the entire month. Bogas were easy to make and sounded like cannons going off. I know because I spent a lot of time around real cannons when I was in the military.

In 2007, firecrackers and other small explosive devices replaced the noises previously caused by the bogas. The people were so careless and inconsiderate that the city banned them too, along with other pyrotechnic devices, near the beginning of December in 2008.

As far as I know, by reading the ordinances, the city banned all fireworks within the city limits of Olongapo. That, of course, doesn’t stop people from disobeying. I’ve seen sparklers on the streets since then and I’m sure the term “pyrotechnic” includes sparklers.

I live in what would be considered the suburbs in the United States. A lot of people live outside the urban area, in the mountainous regions on the outskirts of the city. It’s difficult for law enforcement officials to police this area on any given day and I seriously doubt it’s any different on New Year’s Eve.

In American cities, certain groups will take care of the fireworks displays on New Year’s Eve. Since Olongapo banned most exploding and pyrotechnic devices, there isn’t any type of public fireworks display on New Year’s Eve.


I rarely have anything to do with Halloween and when I do, it’s usually because someone else coerces me into it. Sometimes it’s Josie and sometimes it’s someone else. I don’t care about the history of Halloween and I don’t think many people do. There are three days in a row involving Halloween, even if only one day is celebrated in the United States:

Most Americans are unaware of the second and third days. Filipinos, on the other hand, are acutely aware of them. I can’t tell you the meaning behind them without looking them up and I don’t want to look them up.

Some American families participate in the “trick or treat” routine, having their children collect candy and other treats from various neighborhoods. Some without children, or children who’ve grown up and moved away, stay home and pass out the candy to the kids doing the routine. More adults than ever are simply passing on the holiday altogether.

Costume parties and haunted house parties still occur, probably more than when I was young. The days of getting fresh candied apples and popcorn balls are long over, though, because some people can’t be trusted with children. Some religions and churches condemn the holiday as enticing evil or something. That could be the case if someone takes it seriously. I haven’t met anyone who does.

People in the Philippines will take their families to the cemetery where their deceased loved ones are buried and spend hours there. Sometimes one of the three days and sometimes all three days. Filipinos may celebrate Halloween by getting dressed up for it, but they don’t go door to door. With the level of superstition being really high in the Philippines, it’s not a good idea.

I didn’t participate in any kind of Halloween festivities during most of the years I was in the Philippines. Josie convinced me to go to the cemetery with her and her relatives one year. It was the first and last time I did it and I won’t be doing it again. It’s okay to honor the dead, but not for hours at a time.

Josie and I walked with our older son, Joseph, and his family on Halloween in 2018. We were staying with them in base housing at the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. Watching the children go door to door had an almost antiseptic quality about it.

Christmas Holiday Season

In the United States, the Christmas holiday season generally starts the day after Thanksgiving Day and ends on New Year’s Day. I’m sure some cultures will have nothing to do with the season, mostly because of religious conflicts.

In the Philippines, the season starts on the first day of September. Traditional American Christmas music can already be heard while shopping and while listening to it on the radio. I don’t like the music associated with the season. Well, most of it anyway. That’s because most of it deals with cold weather and snow. It’s very strange for me to hear the same music in the Philippines as I do in the United States.

The Christmas holiday season in most parts of the Philippines is a lot like it is in some parts of the United States. I say some because it’s like those parts where it doesn’t snow in the United States. Since 2006, I’ve lived longer in the Philippines than anywhere else. It doesn’t snow anywhere in the Philippines. From what I understand, ice in any other form has never fallen from the skies there either.

I don’t know how Christmas caroling is done in the United States because I’ve never experienced it anywhere other than the Philippines. In the Philippines, caroling is like a business. People will come around, sing and play guitars and expect to get paid for it. Because our house is one of the nicer ones, it’s like a magnet during the holidays. I tend to avoid the nonsense by remaining in the house.

In the Philippines, the young godchildren will go out early on Christmas Day to visit all of their godparents to get their yearly gifts as cash. Most of my godchildren are either grown up or too far away to visit me. If we happen to be in the United States, gifts for our children’s families will be under the Christmas trees. Some of them will be from Josie and me, naturally.

Other Special Occasions

There are a few special occasions, like Valentine’s Day, that it doesn’t make sense to write about. It’s Araw ng mga Puso in the Philippines, by the way, and it literally means “All Hearts Day”.

Independence Day in the United States is treated as “Friendship Day” in the Philippines. Even though their last Independence Day was on July 4, 1946, they celebrate June 12, 1898, when they gained independence from Spain.

I haven’t mentioned any special occasions, other than Christmas Day, affiliated with one religion or another. There’s just too many of them. Birthdays are also missing. I’ll have to explain the similarities and differences of them separately.

Image Attribution: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Share: Facebook | Twitter

These Posts May Also Be Interesting:

Gray Matter
Copyright © 2020
RT Cunningham