As early as December 1 every year, small children would already start their caroling, going house-to-house in the Philippines, particularly in urban areas. But, sometimes, the households (like our own household) would just ask them to come back beginning December 16, which is the start of the dawn Mass in Catholic churches, a nine-day Novena Mass culminating on Christmas Eve. Actually, the Philippines is touted to have the longest Christmas season celebration in the whole world. As early as September (which is the start of the so-called BER months leading up to December), radio stations already play Christmas songs, and small stores and big malls alike start putting up some Christmas décor. Even if the décor mixes with some Halloween décor, in preparation for All Saints Day/All Souls Day in November, which almost all Filipinos always commemorate with fervor, trooping to the cemeteries in drove to visit their dead. The Christmas season in the Philippines extends to around January.
Going back to the children doing their caroling, their typical get-up would be their house clothes—tshirt, shorts, slippers, or whatever they wear at home. They’d come in twos, threes or more, sometimes even solo act. Some would be pounding on an empty tin can or other makeshift instrument to accompany their singing—or what sounds like singing. In the many years that we’ve had little kids caroling at our front gate, I think I’ve heard it all—from offbeat tunes to incoherent words, to rapidly sung songs (to cover more houses in one night), to single songs to a medley. The songs are in Pilipino and some in English. Very few children sing well. But the offbeat tunes and incoherent words are all forgivable. The kids are probably just having fun while going around with their groupmates, trying their luck to get some decent amount or some nice gifts as they go from house-to-house, night after night.
But, sadly, I sense some kind of materialism creeping in on some kids. Some will really scrutinize how much they are given by a household, counting each coin before putting the coins to their pockets or little bag. When in a group, others can be heard asking “How much was given?” to the one who was handed the money by the household.
But the worst part is that, when I ask the children carolers why there is Christmas, and whose birthday is celebrated on Christmas, some of them, even a few bigger kids, would reply that they don’t know. Well, if they say that they don’t know, I give them a little lecture on Jesus being born on Christmas. Some turn wide-eyed, as if it was really the first time that they were hearing about the meaning of Christmas. Many, if not all, of those who replied that they don’t know who was born on Christmas are the kids who come from poor families. Hopefully, their little hearts and minds will start discovering the true meaning of Christmas from their caroling.
(By the way, when I was a kid myself, my youngest sister and I tried just once to go caroling in our old neighborhood. We were so shy that we ended up singing at only one house--our own.)