The Philippines is considered as the only country in Asia which has a predominant Christian population which makes Christmas as one of the most favorite holidays of the year.
Filipinos are known to celebrate Christmas as soon as the “ber” months begin. The moment September kicks in, you’d expect to hear Christmas songs being played on the radio and Filipinos would start putting up their Christmas decors at home. Some OFW families spread across the world also celebrate this way so they don’t forget their homeland. “Pasko” which means “Christmas” in the Philippines is celebrated big and early!
Since Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays in the Philippines, there are several traditions that every Filipino has practiced over the years, from generation to generations. Here are some of the most popular traditions that make the Filipino Christmas one of a kind.
Christmas Lantern or Parol
It’s not Christmas if there is no Parol. A Parol is a traditional Filipino Christmas Lantern which resembles a five pointed star. The Parol is a common Christmas décor in every Filipino home which transcends even the socio economic status of the household.
The Filipino Christmas Lantern, parol, symbolizing the Star of Bethlehem is usually hang or displayed in the doorways or on the outer part of the windows. The Parol can be as simple as the most basic lantern which is made up of paper or colored cellophane but it can also be elegant and can be made up of capiz shells and even adorn with Christmas lights.
Another traditional Filipino Christmas décor is the Belen which is the best representation of the Nativity scene. A typical Belen is composed of the Child Jesus with Mary and Joseph which is set in a manger. Some of the added characters are the shepherds and their flock and as well as the 3 Wise Men.
Just like the Christmas Parol, a typical Filipino home would display the Belen in their living rooms while some offices and public facilities would also display their versions of Belen. A Belen can be simple which can be comprised of ceramic figurines but there are some versions of the Belen which can be very extravagant and can be made of expensive materials such as porcelain and other precious stones.
Filipinos are among the most creative people in the world, and you can see this on full display during the Christmas season. There are some cities in this country that stages a contest to search and find the most beautiful belen provided that the participants will only use indigenous materials or recycled materials, etc.
Misa de Gallo or Simbang Gabi
The Misa de Gallo is considered as the start of Christmas since the first day of the mass would start on the 16th of December. The 9 day dawn masses or Simbang Gabi is a unique Filipino Christmas tradition and is even considered as the most important part in celebrating Christmas.
The Simbang Gabi is also a Novena wherein the faithfuls would attend mass and hear prayers for 9 days. The Simbang Gabi originated during the early days of Spanish rule and the mass is usually held at 4 in the morning so that the farmers can attend the mass before they start their working day. It has been said that if a person is able to complete the 9 days of Misa de Gallo then they can expect their wishes to be granted.
In the Philippines, carolers would go from one house to the other to belt out popular Christmas songs in exchange of money or candies for children. One of the most unique things about the Filipino carolers is with their musical instruments which are usually made up of materials such as aluminum bottle caps, plastic bottles and other recyclable materials. Carolers are also a common sight even on the busy streets since they would even serenade people who are riding jeepneys or other vehicles.
These are just a few of the many customs and traditions that Pinoy observes during this holiday season. Each country has unique traditions, get to know them too!
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Many Filipinos especially those working overseas wishes and dreams to one day spend Christmas again in the Philippines surrounded with their family and friends. Have you experience Christmas in the Philippines? What makes Paskong Pinoy special for you?