Christmas is a big holiday in the Philippines. It’s so huge almost every Filipino really go out of their way and take time to prepare for this annual occasion. Though Christmas in the Philippines may have been influenced by European traditions in the latter part of its history, its own traditions have surpassed the changing times. This has made Christmas in the Philippines quite unique.
During the cold nights, people would crave for bibingka and puto bumbong. These are delicacies specially prepared during the Christmas season. They would often be served on banana leaves topped with butter or margarine and grated coconut meat.
It wouldn’t be uncommon to find the local folks bringing out their Christmas decorations. The star of the season in the Philippines isn’t the Christmas tree but the Christmas star locally known as the Parol. You will find Parols hanging just about anywhere from malls, to offices, and even in the modest Filipino homes.
Some places even host a Parol-making contest where people create many wonderfully spectacular light displays using Parols. These are sights to see and you can even buy the ingenious light display after the contest.
Starting on December 16, a large portion of the population would flock to attend Mass at their local Catholic congregation. This part of the Philippine Catholic tradition is called Misa de Gallo or locally known as Simbang Gabi in the native vernacular. It translates to Masses at Cock’s Crow, which is usually held either very early in the morning (sometimes at the early hour of 3 a.m., others at dusk). This is a religious Christmas tradition that has been passed on through centuries.
Caroling would also be heard during the Christmas season in the Philippines. You’ll get to see a gang of little kids walking from house to house (even car to car in some cities, but that is actually outlawed for security reasons) singing the old time favorite Filipino Christmas carols. Even the older generation may go about caroling as well.
Employees in the Philippines would usually be treated to a long five-day vacation during the Christmas week since some employers would want their employees to spend time with their families (though there are industries that would also require people to work during the holidays).
Christmas Eve is often celebrated by families at home enjoying a Christmas dinner at midnight. This tradition is called Noche Buena. It is a time for thanksgiving and a time for families to be together. Friends may also be invited to the Noche Buena and this is often a great honor. Gifts would usually be given during the Noche Buena or Christmas morning.
Christmas in the Philippines is a time for families. It is a time of gift giving and a time for warm friendships during the Christmas season.