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Filipino expats bring Christmas cheer from home to Jordan

Holiday season seen as chance for cultural exchange

By Suzanna Goussous - Dec 10,2016 - Last updated at Dec 10,2016

Members of the Filipino community in Jordan celebrate Christmas at Al Hussein Cultural Centre in Amman on Friday (Photo by Hassan Tamimi)

AMMAN — Bringing their local traditions with them to a home away from home, Filipinos in Jordan celebrated the Christmas season in a traditional festival at Al Hussein Cultural Centre on Friday.

The ceremony, held by the Filipino community in Jordan, in cooperation with the United Filipino Organisation and the embassy of the Philippines, also sought to acquaint Jordanians with Filipino culture and activities, according to the organisers.

Philippines’ Ambassador to Jordan Junever M. Mahilum-West said Christmas is an important season in her country and is a chance for the Filipinos living in Jordan to share their traditions in the festive month with the Jordanians.

“The Philippines is among the countries where Christmas is very important, we believe we have the longest Christmas season in the world. Sometimes, as early as September, you can hear Christmas carols in the Philippines, and it ends [on] January 6,” she told The Jordan Times.

Mahilum-West said around 85 per cent of the population in the Philippines is Catholic. 

“We are sharing our culture with Jordan because I believe that the most effective way of getting to know each other is to familiarise ourselves with each others’ cultures. This Philippines Christmas tradition is a big part of the cultural cooperation and exchange,” she added.

Evangelina V Ybo, head of the United Filipino Organisation in Amman, said the organisation has over 800 members in Jordan. 

“This is very important for us. Christmas is a very memorable, meaningful [season] for us Filipinos. We celebrate and miss our families during this season; we are very proud to show Jordanians our culture and what Christmas is all about,” Ybo said.

In the Philippines, the tradition is to light up a lantern called “parol”, which is an iconic symbol of the traditional Filipino Christmas celebration. The parol is a star-shaped Christmas lantern made of bamboo plants and coloured papers.

The parol has the traditional shape of a star mostly to represent the Star of Bethlehem that led to the place where Jesus was born, according to Christian beliefs.

“It is significant for us… In the Philippines when December comes, you can really feel the Christmas spirit. Here, it’s different, so we try to bring our traditions with us,” Ybo told The Jordan Times.

Around 15,636 Filipinos work in Jordan as domestic helpers, according to a report by Sisterhood Is Global.

As a Filipino expatriate living in Jordan, Erwin Gnamahul said she enjoys the traditional Filipino Christmas activities but also tries to mix them with the Jordanian celebrations that are “full of colourful decorations”.

Cynthia Sonyo said Filipino Christmas celebrations in the Kingdom take her back on a journey down the memory lane of her days in the Philippines.

“I wait for Christmas all year to celebrate it with my friends in the Filipino community here. It’s us the expats, celebrating the holy season with both Filipinos and Jordanians,” she said.

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