Photo from Disney EMEA
It’s a known fact that the Philippines is among the many nations that have the longest celebration of the Christmas holiday. As soon as September kicks in, the Yuletide feel is already present.
But what makes the holidays special in the country are the traditions stemming from Pinoy heritage that many still follow even today. And those are best captured in the three-minute holiday short of Disney UK. The video became viral on social media because Filipinos share similar sentiments with the generations-long story of a grandma, her granddaughter, and a vintage Mickey Mouse stuffed toy featured in the short video.
— Disney UK (@Disney_UK) November 9, 2020
Nostalgia plays a big part in Philippine Christmas traditions. That is why, apart from the heart-warming music and the superb animation, Filipinos connected so much with the video because it highlighted cherished holiday memories and reminded them of what the Christmas is all about—valuing family.
“We knew having a story that placed tradition and togetherness at its heart would make it feel relevant and relatable to people all over the world,” says Angela Affinita, brand and creative marketing director at Disney Consumer Products, Games, and Publishing in Europe, Middle East, and Africa, in an interview with The Drum. “We approached this in a similar way we would a Disney short. We only have three minutes to tell the story and we had to place the characters at its core.”
The animation process started in April in New Zealand. One of the main factors that made it possible for the short film to truly capture that unique Paskong Filipino feel is Angela’s childhood. She grew up with her Filipina grandma and she drew some elements of the story from her own experiences. But even though the story centers on a lola and her apo, the featurette “definitely had a universal appeal.”
While it’s fun to list all the Easter eggs in the video, we’ve decided to list down the some of Filipino holiday traditions we saw on the short film. So, tell us, do these customs still happen in your Christmas celebrations?
Before young Pinoys learn their ABCs, mano or pagmamano is among the first lessons they have. During the opening scene we saw this honoring gesture done by the then young grandmother. This is practiced by the Filipino youth to pay respect to the elderlies, whether the meet them on the street or as soon as they enter their home. This act shows that the young accepts the elders’ wisdom and blessing.
Filipino families are all about passing down traditions from one generation to another, whether it is an old recipe, a piece of jewelry, or in the film’s case, a vintage toy. Also, many Filipino grandparents love to keep things that hold special memories for them, which is apparent in the video with the “grandmother’s house being filled with trinkets and personal mementos.”
A true Filipino Christmas hallmark is the parol or Christmas lantern. This holiday ornament symbolizes the Star of Bethlehem. Through the years, the parol has evolved from the humble Japanese paper and bamboo stick construction to more elaborate designs made of different materials like shells, beads, LED lights, and recycled plastic. Places like San Fernando, Pampanga and Las Piñas City in Metro Manila are known for producing some of the best holiday lanterns.
Families coming together
As the lyrics go in the song “Love is a Compass” that accompanies the video, Christmas is “like a map of memories, and just like a compass that leads the ways.” Christmas is somewhat like a homing device, that no matter how old, young, or cool one gets, coming home for the holidays is the best present. This magic of the Yuletide season rings true for every family in the world. But for the 12 million overseas Filipinos scattered around the globe, having Christmas with their families is something to look forward to all year round.