Turkey with dumplings – Christmas in Cebu City

Many things are conceivable in the Philippines, or to be more exact, on the island of Cebu. Even a delicious Christmas dinner with German dumplings. A chef from Saxony in Germany is making it happen.

Frank Hoyer was born in Saxony, a region in the eastern part of Germany. But since 2015, he has been living on Cebu with his family. An illness, which he overcame, forced him to move to a warmer climate. His family, that is his wife, Sandra, and their two daughters, Ann-Kathrin and Antonia Carolina, looked forward to the move. In the meantime, everyone has settled in well and has long become used to the new surroundings.

And how do they celebrate Christmas? On Christmas Eve, 24 December, they dress up and celebrate at the Hotel in Cebu City. That’s the plan. After all, that’s not a bad way to celebrate the feast of feasts, Priest Hoyer says. The atmosphere there is very quiet and Christmassy. “Besides, there is a ten-metre high Christmas tree there, and the hotel’s Saxon chef is preparing Christmas dinner in the Saxon way: with dumplings, especially for us,” Frank says. Instead of a Christmas goose, there will be turkey on the festively decorated table. “This has become a kind of tradition, and we always love it.”

No Christmas tree, but gifts

The tree that are typically used as Christmas trees don’t grow in the Philippines, Frank Hoyer says. “And we don’t like fake trees,” he adds, which is why the Hoyers don’t have a tree at home. But there are huge and magnificently decorated Christmas trees all around the city, in the hotels, and in the shopping malls. This is where the family buys gifts. Or online—from China, which is not so far away.

A Christian holiday

Christmas in the Philippines, how does that fit together? Very well, the New Apostolic Priest says and explains that about 90 per cent of the people in the country are Catholic. Christmas is big here, and it is one of the major feasts on the church calendar. The countdown to Christmas already begins in September. This is when you hear the first Christmas carols and see the first Christmas lights in the malls. People everywhere celebrate loud and play music. “Everybody celebrates Christmas, mostly in big groups, because the Philippine families are usually big. The noise level rises noticeably on Christmas Eve, making Christmas Eve the loudest night of the year.”

The people need quite a bit of stamina on Cebu, because after Christmas, the party just continues. “Starting in January, the Sinulog Festival begins and everybody celebrates right through to February.”

Heat instead of snow

Thirty-five degrees Celsius above zero is normal for the Philippines on Christmas. In the mountainous area in eastern Germany where Frank Hoyer comes from, it was completely different. “But it’s not the weather that dictates our thoughts,” the four Hoyers agree unanimously. Christmas is a matter of the heart, they say. “German Christmas carols, baking cookies, Christmas decorations, lighting incense candles, Christmas carols, and spending time together is what creates the same kind of Christmassy mood we felt in Germany.” And if it gets too hot for them, they take a 20-minute drive to the nearest shopping mall, where it is a comparatively cool 18 degrees. And there is even a skating rink there.

Divine service in Cebu

The Hoyers will be celebrating the Christmas Day service together with the congregation in Cebu City at 10 a.m. After the service, everyone is invited to dinner. “Eating together is one of the most important traditions in the Philippines. It brings people closer together and they get to know each other better.”

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Peter Johanning
Philippines, Christmas, Congregational life