Christmastime in the Philippines: Tradition, Foods, and Family Celebration
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Christmastime in the Philippines: Tradition, Foods, and Family Celebration

The Philippines is the only Asian country where Christians predominate. Majority of its people are Roman Catholic. Christmas, therefore, is an extremely important and revered holiday for most Filipinos. It is a time for family, for sharing, for giving, and a time for food, fun, and friendship.

CHRISTMASTIME IN THE PHILIPPINES: TRADITION, FOODS, AND FAMILY CELEBRATION

There is no white Christmas in the Philippines; there is no winter, no snow. Christmas celebration starts on the 16th with a nine “night mass” (simbang gabi) or pre-dawn or early morning mass and end up officially at the Feast of Three Kings at the first Sunday of January the next year.

The Philippines is the only Asian country where Christians predominate. Majority of its people are Roman Catholic. Christmas, therefore, is an extremely important and revered holiday for most Filipinos. It is a time for family, for sharing, for giving, and a time for food, fun, and friendship.

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Christmas in the Philippines is a mixture of Western and native Filipino traditions. Santa Claus, the Christmas tree, sending Christmas cards, and singing carols have all been inherited from the cultures of the West. However, these have all been adapted to fit the nature and personality of the Filipino people

To most Filipinos, Christmas is the most anticipated celebration of the year and is celebrated accordingly. The splendid climate of this tropical island nation, the abundance and beauty of its flowers, and lovely landscape, its multitude of culinary delights, and above all its warm-hearted people with their true devotion to family and faith all contribute to a holiday celebrated in the true Philippines fiesta tradition.

The pre-dawn or early morning mass is a nine days non-stop celebration that end up at a mid-night mass (noche buena) at the 24th of December. Traditionally, all Roman Catholic churches are full during these church mass.

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Even without the snow, decorations are abundant in this season. The star pa-role (made of bamboo) parol, or star lantern is the symbol of Christmas in the Philippines, representing the guiding light, the star of Bethlehem. This star lantern is hanging at every house and homes plus the multiple colored lights blinking with the rhythm of Christmas carols. These also include government offices and corporate buildings and the main streets in the metro. Workplace and offices were also decorated. Employees and employers are excited with their 13th month pay-off and bonuses. Businesses and corporate have chosen their give-away and gifts for clients.

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Every family decorates their home with Christmas tree, big or small with boxes of gifts underneath. A copy of the manger is also display, usually besides the Christmas tree. Families are also busy buying gifts for their love ones especially for the godchildren. Exchange gifts are now at the atmosphere.

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It is a Filipino tradition for children to visit their godparents and elderly relatives on Christmas day. This child is showing respect for his godmother by taking her hand to his forehead. In return, he receives a blessing or a gift.

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CAROLING 

Carols also starts at the start of the night mass. Mostly group of children with their unconventional instruments are along the street doing a door-to-door caroling. Caroling ends at Christmas day exactly and the streets are busy with lots of children with their new clothes visiting their godparents for their aguinaldo (Christmas gifts – toys, clothes or money), and of course the food.

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Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo, "midnight mass" or "mass of the rooster" comes from the Catholic custom of gathering for celebration of the Eucharist in the pre-dawn hours of each of the nine days before Christmas.

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PUTO BUMBONG (made from glutinous rice, steamed cook, serve at banana leaves with grated coconut meat with sugar)

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After every night mass, outside the church, there were traditional foods for sale during Christmas. Puto bumbong and bibingka are two native holiday treats outside the church.

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BIBINGKA

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LECHE PLAN

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Christmas Eve in the Philippines is one of the traditions most families celebrate. It is a night without sleep and a continuous celebration moving right into Christmas Day. As December 24th dawns, the last Mass of Simbang Gabi is attended; then preparation begins for Noche Buena, which is a family feast that takes place after midnight.

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The Noche Buena is very much like an open house celebration. Family, friends, relatives, and neighbors drop by to wish every family member "Maligayang Pasko" (Merry Christmas). Food is in abundance, often served in buffet style. Guests or visitors partake of the food prepared by the host family (even though they are already full or bloated!). Among the typical foods prepared in the Philippines during Christmas are: lechon (roasted pig), pancit, barbecue, rice, adobo, cakes (Western and native rice cakes), lumpia, etc. There is also an abundance of beer, wine, and liquor, which makes the celebration of Christmas indeed intoxicating!

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The streets are well lit and are full of activities. The children run in and out of the house to play, to eat, and to play again. The Christmas Eve gathering provides an opportunity for a reunion of immediate and distant family members. Some families may choose to exchange gifts at this time; others wait until Christmas day.

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LOLA

In general, the center of a family's Christmas gathering is always the lola, the endearing term used for a family matriarch or grandmother, who is deeply respected, highly revered, and always present. Filipinos remember how their lola had their children form a line and step up to receive a small gift of some coins. The older the child, the more coins he or she receives.

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Some families have a talent show during Christmas Eve celebration. Children are asked to perform. One might sing a Christmas song, others might play a musical instrument, or others may recite a poem or do a dance. The celebration continues until about 6 o'clock in the morning. Those who cannot attend Mass the night before will go to the morning Mass on Christmas day.

Christmas day is a popular day for children to visit their uncles, aunts, godmothers, and godfathers. At each home they are presented with a gift, usually candy, money, or a small toy. Food and drinks are also offered at each stop. It is a day of family closeness, and everyone wishes good cheer and glad tidings.

Reference:

http://www.seasite.niu.edu/Tagalog/Cynthia/festivals/philippine_christmas.htm

Images from Google Image

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Comments (10)

Great article Ron, very informative ! those dishes look yummy :)

Ranked #1 in Philippines

Thanks Kiran, Happy holidays.

Thanks for the complete write on the background of christmas culture in philippines.

Ranked #1 in Philippines

Thanks Chan.

wonderful, very interesting,

Nicely done Ron. Very informative. Very interesting. Fantastic pictures. Looking at the food has made my stomach rumble :-))

Merry Christmas to you.

Feliz Navidad y Prospero Ano Nuevo Ron para Ud. y para Su Familia.

Ranked #1 in Philippines

Thanks a lot to Carol, Jerry and Rama, Merry Christmas and A Happy Holidays to all. To Beverly, muchas gracias, I wish you to the same with your family.

Ranked #1 in Philippines

This is what my friend Jerry is saying, 'anniversaries are hot', but it is saddening that Philippines has encountered another catastrophe this year, many thanks foe all the read my friends.

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