FILIPINO CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS
Christmas is the most important holiday in my country. It starts in September, where we start decorating our homes, and ends after Three Kings, where we take down our Christmas decorations. We always have a Belen, which is the famous setup of the Birth of Jesus Christ in the manger in Bethlehem. You can find them in all our churches, and many homes during the festival season.
We have the Parol, the most common centrepiece in any home or church, which are traditional handmade lanterns made of bamboo and paper, and is lit up at night. We celebrate together as a family after our midnight mass on the 24th of December, to have a very festive meal together at home. Simbang Gabi means “night mass”, which is basically what it is. Filipinos attend mass either late at night or in the wee hours of the morning for all 9 days before Christmas. After each night mass, churches are decorated to add a Christmas flair, and vendors often sell local Christmas goods like bibingka and puto bumbong outside after the mass. These are Filipino sweets made of local ingredients mainly sticky purple rice, coconut and brown sugar for puto bumbong and bibingka is made from rice flour, milk, cheese and grated coconut served on banana leaves.
Christmas caroling is also one tradition that has become a humorous affair for us.
Filipino kids and adults alike go from house to house, starting from early December. From the a-brim-bram-brooms to the jinggom bells, carolling is a sure mark that Christmas is coming. Filipinos wake up at midnight on the 24th to welcome Christmas day with Noche Buena, a lavish feast of traditional Filipino Christmas dishes like lechon, queso de bola, hamon, spaghetti, and fruit salad.
Exchanging gifts the straightforward way is boring, so we put a Filipino twist on it. Not only do you have to find the perfect present for your manita or manito, you also have to describe them, have everyone guess who it is!
While most welcome the New Year by partying it up with friends, our family-centric culture observes one more lavish feast- Media Noche. For Media Noche, the table is usually adorned with food formed into round shapes and an assortment of 12 round fruits, since circles are believed to bring in good fortune. The Feast of the Three Kings, or the Epiphany, is the celebration of the day the Three Kings reached Jesus’ manger. It’s also considered the last day of our lengthy Christmas season. Epiphany occurs on the first Sunday of January, which means Christmas continues until well into the New Year!
Happy Holidays to all!
IWC Partnership Team 2021-22