Christmas in the Philippines


jeepneyIs your Christmas celebration too short?  Then celebrate Christmas in the Philippines.  They have to longest Christmas celebration

The cultural diversity of Christmas celebrations in the Philippines is great also.  If one were to observe Christmas in the Philippines one would see Spanish, Chinese, Indian, British, and American Christmas customs interwoven with Philippine Christmas customs to make a truly unique Christmas celebration.

Beginning December 16 many attend a 4:00 A.M. mass.  Everyday for nine days people leave their homes to attend this 4:00 A.M. mass.  These masses are called Simbang Gabi, meaning Night Mass.  These masses lead up to the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass celebrating the birth of the Christ child.  These people do not have to worry about being late to mass.  They may be wakened and hurried on their way by firecrackers, bands playing Christmas carols, carolers, or the village priest going door-to-door waking everyone for mass.

While Christmas carols may be heard on radios and sung in houses and on the streets in the days prior to December 16 they really take off on December 16.  Groups of carolers, some raising money for civic organizations or church groups, are heard every day after December 16.  Popular Filipino carols as well as English songs like “Jingle Bells” and “White Christmas” are sung and played for the enjoyment of all.

The Filipino people lavishly decorate for Christmas.  Everything from homes to vehicles, churches to government buildings, stores to office buildings are decorated for Christmas.  City streets and public squares are also adorned with buntings, lights, flowers, and more.

The most popular decoration found in every house, church, and public place is the parol.  Made with bamboo sticks, brightly colored rice paper or cellophane, and usually sporting at least one tassel parols are usually star shaped with lights and, possibly, a nativity scene inside.  Every house, whether in wealthy parts of town or in the poorest villages, is decorated with one or more parols often with every window displaying a parol.  While some parols are purchased from stores or roadside stalls many families make their own.  Parol-making is so popular in the Philippines that many towns, villages, and cities hold contests with big prizes going to the best parol entered.

Christmas trees are found in many Filipino houses; but because of the country’s proximity to the equator, real pine trees are rare and very expensive.  Most people use artificial trees, use other trees or plants as Christmas trees, or make trees out of palm branches, triangular pieces of cardboard, or twigs bundled together in a cone shape spray painted gold, white, or green.  No matter what is used for the Christmas tree, the tree is brightly decorated with tiny star lanterns, candies, fruits, carved wood or bamboo, painted shells, little baskets, tinsel, rice paper ornaments, empty matchboxes wrapped as presents, and, for some, artificial snow.

Watch my website http://www.customsofchristmas.com in the coming weeks for more about Christmas in the Philippines.

Maligayang Pasko!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: