The Philippines is reportedly more “Christian” than any other Asian nation, with almost 80% of her population claiming the Catholic religion. Therefore, Christmas in the Philippines is the most important holiday of the year.
December in the Philippines falls in the cooler part of the year in between their two seasons (wet and dry). And though they may start gearing up for Christmas mid September, starting December 16th through the first Sunday in January there will be masses every day throughout the holiday season.
Philippino Christmas Traditions
Along with the normal western Christmas traditions of trees, cards, Santa Claus and carols, Philippino homes will also have a parol, a bamboo pole covered in brightly colored paper with a hanging lighted star or lantern on the end, to represent the star that guided the Wise Men to the Christ Child in Bethlehem so many years ago.
Christmas Eve in the Philippines is the big celebration night. Many families go to church to hear the simbang gabi (the Christmas Eve mass), followed by a midnight Christmas dinner, called Noche Buena.
Dressed in their finest, if not new clothes, they will stay up all night at the big, open house, celebration with family, friends and neighbors dropping in to wish everyone a Merry Christmas! Most of their feasts will include dishes of lechon (roasted pig), ham, fruit salad, rice cakes, bibingka and puto bumbong, (a purple glutenous rice) traditional Christmas foods, and other sweets, steamed rice, and many different types of drinks.
Merry Christmas is Maligayang Pasko in Tagalog, the main Philippino language. Gifts are called pamasko and are exchanged generally between school or work friends. Although it is customary for the grandparents to give an aguinaldo (gift of money) to children at the Christmas Eve dinner, and upon receiving it, the child is expected to kiss the elder’s hand, a gesture of respect and thankfulness.
Have you ever been part of a Christmas celebration in the Philippines? We’d love to hear your experience. Please share in the comments.
- Flag and map of the Philippines to color
- How to make a parol star – craft
- Watch a video of how to make puto bumbong – and hear their language too!
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