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A Classic Filipino Christmas Song, Rewritten for the Pandemic

The song “Christmas In Our Hearts” goes viral in the Philippines every Sept. 1, the unofficial start of the holiday season, but this year, the memes are looking a little different.
September 1, 2020, 8:18am
jose mari chan christmas
One of Jose Mari Chan's Christmas CDs. Photo: VICE

It’s September 1st and in the Philippines, this only means one thing: the unofficial start to a four-month-long Christmas season. In most countries, a Christmas tree on display or snowfall would ring in the holidays, but in the tropical country, it's “Christmas In Our Hearts,” that does, a modern classic by singer Jose Mari Chan. Chan goes viral every September, with Filipinos posting memes that anticipate hearing his song in malls, restaurants, and practically every public space. But with festivities looking drastically different this year because of the pandemic, so is the excitement over the tune.

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Chan himself came up with new lyrics for his hit, slightly updating it to be more appropriate for COVID times. He sang the new version in an appearance on the morning show Unang Hirit today.

In it, he changed the iconic line “Whenever I see girls and boys selling lanterns on the street” to "Whenever I hear girls and boys singing carols in my mind.”

Here’s the original:

The first verse of the new version goes:

"Whenever I hear girls and boys

Singing carols in my mind,

I remember the past

When everything was fine.

Whenever I see people

Giving gifts to those in need,

I believe this Christmas

We should be there to lead.

Let's open up our hearts

For a bright tomorrow,

In any way we can

And drive out all our sorrow."

Chan also tweaked his other yuletide hit “A Perfect Christmas,” which was originally about celebrating the holidays with someone special, and made it about connecting with loved ones despite spending Christmas away from family this year.

“Christmas In Our Hearts” was first released in 1990 but according to Spotify Asia, the song, along with Chan's other hits, continue to be popular and have been streamed millions of times, with the number multiplying every time the “ber months” start.

And just as Chan is adapting to Christmas in the time of COVID, so are Filipinos. Many of the memes this year combine the song with pandemic humour.

Twitter user @chinoyqueer used the acronyms for the Philippines’ quarantine measures to make a pun.

“So what's next after ECQ, MECQ, GCQ, and MGCQ? It’s PASQ!”

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For those who don’t speak Filipino, that’s a play on “PASQ” and “pasko,” the word for Christmas.

Twitter user @sanguinenyxie reimagined an iconic meme of the singer peeking, but this time with a face shield and mask, reminding everyone to stay safe.

A local Facebook meme page even went as far as creating its own lyrics. “Whenever I see boys and girls wearing face masks on the street,” it goes.

Twitter user @johnnyralf12 edited the singer as Marvel character Thanos with the caption, “One snap we’ll be Covid free.”

With everything that’s happened in 2020, it’s nice to know these Sept. 1 memes aren’t going anywhere.

Find Lia on Twitter and Instagram.