How can it be? December is here already, and the countdown to Christmas is in full swing! Where on earth has 2017 disappeared to?! What a year it’s been, I hope 2017 has been as fun and as prosperous for you as it has for me.
Being a digital nomad means that I often miss out on spending holidays and festivals with my close family. The pang of guilt I get when I think about missing these important moments never leaves, but I know that my family supports me in everything I do and that they understand why I won’t be home for Christmas.
Fam, I’m sorry. I love you, and I’ll come see you soon! Distance really does make the heart grow fonder.
Having been living in the Philippines for two years now, I’ve seen a few Christmas’ come and go. Christmas in the Philippines is extraordinary! But then I thought about how awesome Christmas in Switzerland is too. This is already my 3rd Christmas here in the Philippines, and I still don’t get really into the Christmas mood. A Filipino Christmas is still far from what I’m used to back home.
I thought perhaps I could get myself into the Christmas spirit by sharing with you what I miss about Christmas in Switzerland and what I kinda love about Christmas in Manila; let’s take a look!
Christmas in Switzerland
Christmas in Switzerland is a big deal but not as commercialised and OTT as in Manila; we’ll get to that later!
Christmas in Switzerland starts, and ends, in December. Generally we’re pretty laid back people and it takes a lot for us to get excited.
The weather is one of the biggest differences between Christmas in Switzerland and Christmas in Manila. I still find it weird to be in a t-shirt and shorts on Christmas Day rather than wrapped up in a big puffer jacket, snow boots and wooly scarf! I love that it’s almost always sunny in Manila but I do miss the snow-capped mountains in Switzerland; for me that’s a picture-perfect Christmas landscape!
Food is, for most people, the most important part of Christmas and I kinda agree. I bloody love Swiss food and Christmas without a fondue will always feel weird for me. Like American’s celebrating Thanksgiving without a turkey; it’s just not on!
I really miss Glühwein and Bratwurst. Glühwein is a warm and spicy mulled wine and Bratwurst is a classic German pork sausage…the best, believe me! Maybe I’ll try and make my own Glühwein here in Manila this year, see what my friends make of a classic Swiss Christmas tipple!
In Switzerland, and most of central Europe to be fair, Christmas Markets are a big deal; like huge! We mostly wander through the streets lined with local stalls selling all sorts of gifts and handicrafts. It’s a great way to get all of the Christmas shopping done in one go. Some of it is crap to be fair but it’s a tradition so we roll with it!
Christmas Day in Switzerland
My Christmas Day is a little different to lots of people as my parents have split up (a long time ago) so me and my sister get two Christmas Days as it were; one with Mum and one with Dad. When I was living in Switzerland I’d usually spend the 24th December at my Mum’s house with her boyfriend, my sister and my niece Romina.
We normally have a pretty chilled out morning, chatting and catching up. Mum will have put a big Christmas tree up in the living room, complete with lights, decorations, and of course, presents underneath! We then sit down to eat (the best bit of the day!). Every year we have the same dish called Fondue Bourguignonne.
Fondue Bourguignonne is a classic Swiss dish that consists of steak served on forks. It comes with a variety of side dishes and sauces. A big pot of oil is put in the middle of all this. We gather at the table and cook our skewered steak in the oil, much like you would eat fondue. The meat is lightly fried and then we dip them in sauces before eating. Think of it as a Swiss version of the Korean Samgyeopsal, or Chinese hot pot!
After we’ve had our fill, and we really do fill out boots, we move to the living room and sit around the Christmas tree for a little family sing-a-long. My mum loves this part of our Christmas Day! Once the carol singing is over we rip into our presents.
Then, on the 25th we do it all again at my Dad’s house!
Of course, Christmas is also about having a good time with your loved ones. After spending time with family, I make sure to head out with my mates to grab a drink or two and just have some fun with them. No matter what we end up doing, it’s always a great time to just be merry.
Christmas in Manila
That brings me onto Christmas in Manila; Christmas in Manila is another kettle of fish! It still blows my mind that the countdown to Christmas begins in September…legit! Filipinos love their Christmas and preparation starts super early! The Christmas music gets turned up to 11, the decorations come out and people get shopping. Man the Filipinos love to shop!
Like I said, having a warm Christmas will always feel weird but I am starting to get used to it. The novelty of being able to go to the beach over the Christmas holiday hasn’t worn off though. Switzerland is landlocked so heading to the beach is always a treat for me!
There is no cheese in a Filipino Christmas Dinner but lots of sweets instead! Families share food with one another and the tables are almost overflowing with food. Plates piled high with puto bumbong, sticky rice topped with butter, shredded coconut and brown sugar. Instead of Christmas Cake Filipinos traditionally have bibingka, a type of rice cake that is cooked in clay pots with banana leaves. Quite tasty to be fair, I’d still like lashings of brandy butter though!
You know I mentioned how Filipinos love shopping? It’s intense, I don’t know how they put themselves through it! There are seas of people hitting up the shopping malls and the traffic jams are like nothing on earth! The plus side is that all the shops and buildings put up some pretty impressive light shows and so for nearly three months Manila’s skyline looks kinda magical.
Christmas Day in Manila
In previous years I have been lucky enough to be invited to a traditional Filipino family Christmas. I learned that it’s not about giving the most expensive gifts but thoughtful gifts instead. Families all go to church on Christmas Day and although I’m not religious I did find the tradition enjoyable.
Once they return from Mass they dig in to the mountains of food, laugh, chat and sing if they feel like it. It typical for the grandchildren to sing and dance for their parents and grandparents in return for aginaldo; their Christmas presents.
My Christmas 2017
This year I’ll admit it’s a bit sad, as I won’t be able to fly back to my family. Although, I’m not too sad though as I spent the Christmas holiday with a misfit group of friends who also have no one else to celebrate with. We had a simple potluck group of people. Still, I’m happy that we were able to make memories together. I was also glad to have what was possibly my most chilled out Christmas Day ever.
To be fair, as much as I do like Christmas, I’m more of a New Year’s Eve kinda guy. New beginnings, new plots plans and adventures. 2018…bring it!