Christmas is just around the corner and I could not help but miss my family and friends in the Philippines. Christmas is the most anticipated and most celebrated event for many Filipinos. For me, there’s nothing like a Paskong Pinoy (Philippine Christmas)! So what is Christmas in the Philippines really like? As you know, the Philippines is a tropical country so don’t expect to see snow. However, the weather during the “ber months” is relatively cooler and less humid. It’s the perfect time for a festive fiesta!
This year, my family will be spending Christmas in Siena, Italy. I must admit that I feel a bit sad because we would not be able to spend my favorite holiday with my parents and sisters. So let me share some of my favorite Christmas memories in 2016. We were living in Manila back then, and I was pregnant with my second son Lucas. Leon, my first-born son, was fourteen months old when these photos were taken. I hope to show you some snapshots of what Christmas looks like in the Philippines.
“Paskong Pinoy”- A Philippine Christmas
When I was still a kid the moment I heard Jose Mari Chan’s “Christmas in Our Hearts” on the radio, I knew that the Christmas season has officially begun. For most Filipinos, Christmas is not celebrated in a day. It is celebrated as early as November (or even October)…and September 1 marks the countdown to Christmas! It does not end on December 25 either. The parties extend until the third week of January. Christmas in the Philippines is really an extravagant (and sometimes exhausting) celebration.
In 2016, my family returned to the Philippines after living for a few years in the United States. It was Leon’s first time to experience a Paskong Pinoy. He was only a year old when he entered daycare. For their Christmas program, he got assigned to carry a small “parol” (star lantern). He had just learned how to walk with assistance, and I held his small hand as he “hung” the parol on the Christmas tree in front of an audience. That day was very memorable to me.
December of 2016 was filled with parties, caroling events, out-of-town trips to the beach (Batangas) and the mountains (Baguio City). There was always something to celebrate every single day. I was always stuffing myself with food!
Christmas Traditions in the Philippines
This is a big part of the Philippine Christmas tradition. Traditionally, carolers- usually children, go from house to house to sing Christmas songs. In return, they receive money from the people they sing carols to. Usually, the carolers sing “ang babait ninyo, thank you” (you are so kind) when they receive a big amount or “ang babarat ninyo, thank you” (you are so stingy) when they only get a little amount or nothing at all. Well, at least that was how I remembered it in the 90s and early 2000s!
In this video, we were in S & R (a supermarket similar to Costco) when we were listening to a special group of carolers. They were playing the rondalla (stringed instruments) while they were singing and dancing.
Misa de Gallo
Many Filipinos attend the “misa de gallo”, a Roman Catholic mass celebrated around midnight of Christmas Eve. After the mass, church goers would eat special Christmas desserts such as “puto bumbong” ( a purple rice cake sprinkled with coconut and brown sugar) and “bibingka” (a glutinous rice cake with margarine and sugar). The traditional Christmas drink is called “mainit na tsokolate”, a hot chocolate drink made with tablea cacao and peanut butter.
Filipinos eat a special midnight meal with family and friends on Christmas Eve. I always look forward to eating my Mommy’s special lasagna. We also had shrimp with oyster sauce, steak, fried chicken and rice. I miss our house blend iced tea!
I am not sure if this is considered a “tradition” but let me tell you this- Christmas shopping in the Philippines is such a huge and crazy event. Malls are open until midnight to accommodate the thousands of shoppers buying for gifts for their loved ones. Filipinos are so enthusiastic when it comes to gift-giving. They give presents to almost everyone they know- including their officemates, bosses, acquaintances, or even complete strangers. They brave through thick crowds and endure heavy traffic all for the spirit of giving!
Expect to see lots of Christmas displays, lights and special events in shopping malls all over the country during the Christmas holidays. Some malls have their decorations up as early as October! You can hear Christmas songs playing non-stop inside the shopping malls. I must admit that it can be overwhelming…but fun, nonetheless!
Christmas is the season for giving for many Filipinos. Organizations such as schools, clubs, government offices, non-profit organizations, churches, and families take this opportunity to give to those in need. Love In A Shoebox is a yearly project that reaches out to Aeta children in Zambales. Filipinos are known to be a loving and giving people, and they give from their hearts and help those who need an extra hand.
Christmas in the Philippines really is a grand celebration. Too bad that I will miss it this year. I hope to be able to go home for Christmas someday. I would love for Leon and Lucas to see their grandparents and relatives and I am sure that they will have a blast.
This post is part of the Filipino Christmas Traditions Blog Round-Up by FIL-AM LEARNERS.
MALIGAYANG PASKO (A Joyful Christmas)!
How do you celebrate Christmas in your part of the world? Let me know in the comments!
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