It’s not the first Christmas I have celebrated outside the UK, but it still feels a bit strange. One comes to realise how much our ideal Christmas revolves around regular routines that are really quite peripheral to the real ‘reason for the season’. A candle-lit carol service, real tree (transported home on the bus), Christmas crackers, port and stilton, Dr Who on the TV… these are all things which make up my Christmas but which are absent this year. (I appreciate that you will have your own, quite different, list.) Everywhere we’ve gone, in shopping malls, hotel lobbies and the radio in the minibus, we’ve been accompanied by the strains of ‘White Christmas’ and ‘Winter Wonderland’ but these familiar tunes just serve to remind us that we are a long way from home. It is ironic that every year my wife dreams of a white Christmas and the first time in ages it looks like London will get one, we are in a hot and humid country with daily temperatures around 28 Celsius.
Christmas starts early in the Philippines (actually they’ve been celebrating for weeks), not just because we are 8 hours ahead of the UK, but also with the observance of noche buena on Christmas Eve – when the celebration really begins. Food is being prepared and we’re going over to the ‘old house’ in San Simon later this afternoon for the festivities. The Christmas morning service is at 4am (!) – I’m not sure whether this is intended to be a late Christmas Eve service or an early Christmas morning service. I’m just glad I’m not preaching.
I’ll be taking a break for a couple of days from the blog. On Boxing Day (26th December) we’re planning to go to the beach, which is definitely not part of our usual Christmas routine back home. Thanks for reading the blog – some days I’ve had 40 visitors, which has been very gratifying and I hope you’ve been enjoying these random and idle thoughts.
So, family and friends back in the UK, members of our churches – be assured that we are truly missing you at this time. And we wish you God’s blessings this Christmastide. Maligayang pasko!