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Christmas Traditions of the Philippines

By Edited Jun 21, 2016 0 2

For many people around the world, Christmas is the merriest season of the year and with this joyous season comes the various Christmas traditions that each country put into practice, and the Philippines is not an exemption to that. The country, also recognized as "The Land of Festivals", celebrates the holiday season in the best and most unique way possible.

Christmas is celebrated in the Philippines starting from December 16th. One of their traditions is what they call Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo that begins on the mentioned date and ends on Christmas Eve. While it is an early morning mass (starts at 3 or 4 in the morning), Filipinos never fail to attend such masses because obviously, it is a part of their tradition and it surely brings so much joy to them, especially when they have completed the 9 masses. Just so you know, the Philippines is the single country in Asia in which the majority of their overall population is Roman Catholic.

Then there is puto bumbong and bibingka that are always associated with Simbang Gabi – two of the country's 'Christmas food' and will not be seen around the world. Puto bumbong is purple in color and made of sugary rice cooked in bamboo tubes which are laid on a particular steamer. As soon as they are cooked, they will be taken out from the tubes and will be coated with butter and dusted with grated coconut and sugar. They will be wrapped in banana leaves to maintain their moist and warmness until they are to be consumed.

On the other hand, bibingka is a sweet rice cake which is made from galapong. It is baked in a particular clay pan (with coals above and beneath) and bordered by a banana leaf. On top of it are a few slices of white cheese and salted egg, coated with butter and dusted with sugar at times as well as grated coconut. Puto bumbong and bibingka are typically sold in streets at nighttime and during the Simbang Gabi. In addition, both are sold in as early as the 1st or 2nd week of December.

Around the world, people have Christmas trees that are filled with lovely adornments. Some have lanterns and make their homes bright by putting in as many Christmas lights inside and outside the house as possible. In the Philippines, they have what they call a parol or lantern that is usually in the form of a star. It is made of rattan or bamboo frame wrapped in a cellophane rice paper, or tissue. Nearly all Filipino families make sure they have one to be placed on the door or window. There are various shapes of parol, and in fact, malls have come up with an idea of creating extremely big ones. In the old days, a small candle was put inside the parol to give light, but with the advent of modern technology and for safety purposes, these lanterns already have built-in bulbs.

The Philippines also have belen or nativity scenes which are typically displayed in schools, churches, malls, and homes. Similar to lanterns, the belen can also vary in sizes and are decorated with Christmas lights all over so it becomes more noticeable at night. Christmas trees are made of plastic as the country has extremely few pine trees. Such trees are decorated with lovely ornaments and Christmas lights.

Moreover, you can see children going from house to house and singing Christmas carols – hoping to get something in return like money, for example. This Christmas tradition normally starts on the 2nd week of December until New Year's Day. What's great about these children is that they make their own musical instrument. They are nothing fancy, but they are deemed quite useful for the children singing Christmas carols. These instruments are made of several flattened bottle caps joined altogether in a looped wire to create a tambourine; huge cans with cover that serve as their drums; and plastic bottles filled with lots of small seeds to create maracas. Sometimes, you can see grownups singing Christmas carols in every household as well.

Gift-giving is also very common to Filipinos. Gifts are placed under the Christmas tree and will be opened in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve or on Christmas day itself. Children who still believe in Santa Claus are usually told by parents to be good or they won't get anything from him. Filipino families prepare lots of food to be served on Christmas Eve and make sure that all members of the family enjoy their meal together. Some families hear mass on the night of December 24th and some on the 25th. In addition, children often go to their godparents' houses for gifts that come in the form of toys, clothes, and sometimes money.

Christmas in the Philippines goes on until Three Kings' Day (January 6th). The New Year's Day is also one of the major celebrations in the country in which people light up fireworks to welcome the new year. Some Filipinos also believe that lighting up fireworks can keep away bad spirits. Moreover, families gather on New Year's Eve with lots of food around – just like Christmas Eve. Superstitious children would jump at midnight, hoping to become taller in the coming new year.

People are always interested in learning about Christmas traditions of each country for the simple reason that this time of year is truly incomparable. Despite the economic crisis that people have been going through, they do not let it get in the way to have fun and recall the birth of Jesus Christ. Talking about Christmas traditions is one sure sign that Christmas will always be in our hearts; such traditions are very important probably because for every family and regardless of where they live, there is something that's really warm and unforgettable when it comes to practicing the same customs year after year – and we will love every minute of it. If you're not already signup please take a moment to signup so that you can also comment on this article because comments are encouraged and much appreciated.

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Comments

Nov 21, 2010 7:30pm
askformore
Thank you for very detailed information about some of the Christmas traditions of the Philippines. I lived two years in the Philippines and have celebrated Christmas three times there. - Christmas (Pasko) in the Philippines is something special.
Nov 22, 2010 4:11am
LoveSpaces
Glad to hear this askformore! Thanks for reading and commenting on this article.
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