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Kris Kringle, a tradition of giving

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When Filipinos talk of Christmas, discussions will often center on the custom of gift-giving. With our penchant for celebrating the season long before the rest of world starts, it isn’t unusual that the holiday focus on this tradition.

Apart from partaking of a luxurious feast on Christmas eve, Pinoys look forward to the moment when gifts are exchanged. In any home or office, the tree stands at the center of decorations, with boxes of presents serving as eye-catching adornments.

However, what counts lie beyond the simple act of gifting. It shows the level of appreciation a person has for another. Whether big or small, a present is always received with gratitude.

In the Philippines, the simplest way of exchanging gifts happens during Christmas parties through a game of Secret Santa or Kris Kringle. Participants secretly pick out a name, whose identity is revealed on an agreed-upon date. The present is given out on an agreed-upon day of reveal.

No one knows exactly how this game originated, but many believe the practice of playing Secret Santa was introduced by philanthropist Larry Dean Stewart, who came up with the idea for this custom.

Of course, the character of Santa himself is steeped in tradition. Based on the legendary Saint Nicholas – Santa Claus is a corruption of his name – who is known for having given away his fortune to help the poor and needy, he is also known by many other monikers worldwide: Christkindl in Germany, Sinter Klass in Dutch, Father Christmas in England and Pere Noel in France.

Locally, the game is affectionately called as monito monita. Your partner is called either your monito or monita depending on his gender.

This simple yuletide practice is imbued with much creativity as participants try to find their partners a present based on an agreed frequency and cost. The theme is also pre-arranged: it could be something sweet, something sour, something round, something soft, and so on. In some cases, presents are intentionally given a naughty slant.

On the other hand, participants may also be asked to make a wish list to make it easier for their partner to find a suitable gift for him. This ensures that what is given will be warmly received and prove to be a memorable one.

Filipinos value camaraderie and friendship, more so during the Christmas season. This special gift-giving tradition celebrates the holidays more meaningfully. If you fancy yourself a Santa in the making, you can start practicing on your skills by playing Secret Santa.

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