The Philippines has the most extended Christmas celebration in the world, starting in September. Unlike the usual tree St. Nick theme, Christmas in the Philippines has unique local traditions. Christmas activities portray the creativity of Filipinos when it comes to food, arts, and music. However, the whole point of the celebration is to bring families closer and express generosity toward those in need.
Here are some top-awaited Christmas traditions in the Philippines you need to experience.
Christmas Traditions in the Philippines
Attending Simbang Gabi
Simbang Gabi is a classic Catholic tradition wherein families attend mass at dawn for 9 days. The mass begins at 4 am. It is the Filipinos’ way of praising and thanking God and asking for petitions. This was also a common practice in the Spanish era. Workers would attend the earliest mass before they go to work.
Eating Christmas Delicacies
After Simbang Gabi, homes and dining places prepare sweet sticky desserts like “Puto Bumbong” and “Bibingka” paired with hot chocolate. Puto Bumbong and Bibingka are both rice cakes. Bibingka is cooked with charcoal and added cheese and salted egg. On the other hand, puto bumbong is cooked using a bamboo tube, and seasoned with grated coconut, margarine and sugar.
Decorating with Christmas Lanterns and Belens
Aside from Christmas trees, Filipinos decorate their homes with star-shaped Christmas lanterns or parols. It symbolizes hope and is portrayed as the Star of Bethlehem. Most parols are made of plastic, but you may get the ones made from rattan for a more elegant look. Some parols also have a modern and colorful look. You can plug them into a power source, and the lights appear in different shades and move in different directions.
Apart from the lanterns, you will see “belens” or a model of the Nativity Scene which shows a stable with animals, Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus on a manager.
Have you heard of the term, “manito and manita”? This is a popular exchange gift method in the Philippines. They usually draw lots to determine the name you will give a gift to. The manito or manita usually has a wishlist, and they exchange random items before the actual gift-giving at the Christmas party.
House-to-House or Street Caroling
Both children and adults participate in Christmas caroling in residential areas and commercial places. Most of the songs are usually from Filipino artists like Jose Marie Chan. Apart from this, street concerts also have a small to large orchestra depending on the venue.
Visit Christmas Villages
Christmas villages could be homes adorned with grand Christmas lights and decor or malls with fascinating life-size gingerbread houses and fireplaces. It’s also an opportunity for children to create Christmas cookies and snap a photo with Santa!
13th Month Pay or Christmas Bonus Shopping
For employed adults, a 13th-month pay is something to look forward to days before Christmas. The salary is prorated according to the months of work rendered for the year. Workers usually use this salary to go Christmas shopping. Aside from this, top-performing workers may also get a Christmas bonus.
On Christmas Eve, families gather around the table to celebrate the birth of Jesus. They pray and eat a Christmas feast together after the clock strikes 12. Noche Buena meals vary from home to home. They can either have ham, roasted pig, spaghetti, or fried noodles and desserts.
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