A glimpse of what Filipino Christmas is like

A simple take on what it is like to celebrate Christmas in the Philippines

These lanterns are displayed in the Philippines around the holidays. (Flickr/ Stitch)

Everyone is abuzz with Christmas just around the corner. All our plates are getting full by the numerous preparations like buying presents, planning the food for Christmas Eve, and decorating the whole place with lights and stockings. 

The corners of our home suddenly come to life when we light up our Christmas tree together, with ornaments meticulously placed on it. Christmas is celebrated in a wide variety of styles and traditions all over the world, but there is one sticking out among the rest: the celebration of Christmas ⁠— the Filipino way. 

The Philippines is known for its majestic lands and tropic waters, as well as its rich and diverse culture in the heart of Southeast Asia. It is famous for its native delicacies, hospitality, and artistry. A nation colonized by different civilizations over time, it has become a melting pot of cultures and traditions of their own and of others. 

However, Filipinos established their own unique identity and footprint in the global scene, and an undeniable fact is that Filipinos celebrate Christmas unlike any other. 

Would you believe that Christmas in the Philippines starts as early as September? The Philippines flaunts itself about having the longest Yuletide season in the world. As soon as we flip our calendars to welcome the “Ber Months” (September, October, November, and December), the streets become filled with lights, decorations, and Christmas songs. 

People are busy preparing many holiday-related activities for friends and family. Just by being there, you can feel others’ excitement and energy as if it is Christmas week already. 

In the weeks approaching Christmas Day, there are two prominent traditions: carolling and Simbang Gabi. Carolling is done mostly by the youth singing hymns and carols to every house, and they are given money in exchange. 

A bigger deal is with Simbang Gabi, which refers to the Catholic masses observed over nine days towards Christmas Eve. On the first day of the masses, you make a wish, and it is believed that it will only come true by completing the series.  

Noche Buena serves as a greeting on Christmas Day and people eat together by midnight before exchanging presents. It is also a time for family, friends, and relatives to come and bond together. On the night of Christmas, everyone has their eyes on the food. The food is like a buffet filled with every festive dish and delicacy you can think of and consists primarily of festive ham, lechón, queso de Bola, spaghetti, lumpia (spring rolls), chicken or pork Adobo, fruit salad, and much more. 

Last, but certainly not least, is the way Filipinos craft their special Christmas lanterns called parols. These are star-shaped ornamental lanterns made by bamboo sticks or wire and covered with foil and craft papers. It symbolizes the star that the three wise men followed the night of Jesus’ birth. Other than displaying the delicate craftsmanship of every lantern, it also signifies the star lighting our path amidst the darkness.

Filipino Christmas is four wonderful months of spreading joy, connecting with loved ones, and honouring religion. These traditions keep the meaning of Christmas, generosity, and hope alive in the hearts of people. 

The celebrations may be different this year, but it should not hinder us from moving forward with our lives. Despite many typhoons the Philippines endures every year, calamities happening around the world, and the silent battles each of us face we have something to cling to at the end of the year — opening up a fresh chapter. Just like a parol, Christmas serves as the light at the end of the tunnel and guides us home safely wherever we may be.  

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