Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas! How are you all? It’s been awhile since my last post. I was really busy at the university. We had our exams before Christmas break. Studying was a struggle since the Christmas spirit was already in the air. Our last day of exam was Dec. 21. It was really a bliss the moment we finished the exams. Total freedom.
So how do Filipinos celebrate Christmas?
To tell you the truth, I have no idea. Maybe because we’re no longer practicing some old Christmas traditions. But, what I am going to share to you in this entry are my experiences and knowledge about Christmas in the Philippines.
The Philippines celebrates the longest Christmas season in the world. Carols start at September. Kids, and some adults would gather and sing Christmas carols to different houses in exchange or expectation for money or treats. The season would last until
The day after my exam, I went Christmas shopping with my sister. The malls are full of last minute Christmas shoppers. I bought gifts for my cousins, parents and friends. It’s really hard to budget and prioritize if you don’t have money. Huhuhu.
My mom has been collecting Santa Claus' items.
As a kid, growing up in a middle class family, I never believed in Santa not even in tooth fairies. It’s because I was raised in a private Catholic school where they taught that the real essence of Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior. The Santa Claus tradition here in the Philippines is practiced among wealthy families. Actually, that Santa Claus tradition is quite rare and new in this country. And my mother is quite fond with this fat man since she’s been collecting Santa Claus items.
The Santa Claus Tradition, annually practiced by my dad and his friends in their hometown every December 25.
My dad and his friends have this tradition for 28years. Most of them are in costumes and would ride trucks and vehicles. One of them will dress as Santa Claus. Then they will throw candies along the highway. It was really fun. The children and adults will wait for them and race for the candies being thrown away. It was one of the awaited events every Christmas afternoon at my father’s town.
Christmas lights hanging around the trees. How magnificent!
Decorating streets and houses during Christmas is common. But it is more seen in wealthy families. A regular Filipino family would have a Christmas tree, lights and a Christmas lantern, or parol. Parol is a lit lantern which comes in various sizes, shapes, designs, styles and colors. It is one of the most iconic symbols of Christmas here in the Philippines. They are more common in my city. There’s even a Giant Lantern Festival: Ligligang Parol, where different towns join the festival and present their giant parols which will be lit along their chosen music for 5 minutes. The dancing lights must synchronized with the songs played. The best lantern would win the title and the specified amount. However I don’t really appreciate this festival, I just don’t get the difference among lanterns so I don’t usually watch the festival.
An example of Christmas lantern or Parol.
Christmas parties is the most common activity worldwide. So I won’t discuss further. Monito monita is practiced before Christmas parties. It is a way of exchanging gifts held weekly where participants assign categories of what kind of gift should be given to the receiver. For example, something red, one should give something red to the person he or she picked. I don’t join this activity, it’s too costly and impractical. And I’m the lame gift giver ever so, yeah, whatever.
The church decorated with Christmas lights and Christmas laterns, Parol, every December. This makes the Christmas spirit to be more felt by the church goers.
Simbang Gabi. It is a series of nine nights or dawns of mass before Christmas. Traditionally it starts Dec. 16 and ends at Dec. 24. It is believed that if someone completed the Simbang gabi, his or her wish would come true. Well I haven’t prove it yet because I don’t attend regularly. And whenever I attend, I’m always late. But awhile ago, Christmas eve’s mass, I came early. We came even before the mass started. Well because my dad attend the mass only during Christmas eve that’s why he doesn’t want to be late.
Our Christmas Eve’s mass or preferably called as Misa de Gallo consists of the nativity or the Panunuluyan. Nativity is a short play where actors re-enact Jesus birth. From Mary’s conception to finding shelter to Jesus birth. Humbly saying, I played Mary, mother of Christ, two times in my entire life. It was really a pleasure to play the role. And a pressure because I’m not that good straight A’s religious girl. It’s not the religion that counts, it’s the faith.
Outside the church there are numerous Christmas vendors. Popcorn, cotton candy, Puto Bumbong, bibingka, and ice cream. And they were the reasons why kids attend the mass. They would start whining about the food outside. Such distractions.
Noche Buena. Christmas eve’s dinner. I think other countries practiced this tradition. The family would prepare food and eat all together on the dinner table. So it’s nothing new to us. I was raised celebrating Christmas and practicing this tradition annually.
Lechon or roasted pig, Leche flan or caramel custard, Queso de Bola or Ball of Cheese, Hamon or sweetened ham and Ube or purple yam are some of the usual dishes on the Filipino’s Noche Buena table. The Ube is usually prepared by the men in the family by melting yam and adding sugar and milk and mixing the sticky mixture in a hot temperature. While Leche flan is prepared by the ladies. Lechon is usually ordered from a local seller or if there’s enough time and skills the family would roast it by themselves. My family doesn’t get Lechon because it’s too costly and it can cause high blood pressure. Well we’re not a fan of stroke phenomenon during Christmas. We aloso don’t buy Queso de Bola because we like our cheese in rectangles. It’s easier to cut with that shape, the cheese won’t roll over. And also the last time I had Queso de Bola, it tasted like soap. And that was the history of no Ball of Cheese on the Christmas table. We get the Hamon for free.
My mother’s company annually gives hamon and other grocery items such as our rectangle cheeses.
Our incomplete Christmas eve's table. The baby back ribs are not prepared yet at this time.
For Noche Buena this year, my mother prepared Charlie chan spaghetti, tiramisu, baby back ribs, hamon, and toasted hot dogs. My dad bought leche flan and ube. We don’t do a large Noche Buena since we’re only four in the family and we don’t have any visitors for Christmas so it’s only for us. Anyway there are other treats on the table such as Pringles, chocolats, aloe vera, orange and jelly juices, fruits and sweets.
Typically, I stay ‘til 3 am. Well it’s no difference during school days since I have to study. But my Christmas eve is filled with Christmas-related activities and not just read medical books. I’m not that nerd. Although I read Sherlock Holmes. Christmas eve won’t be complete without watching Christmas movies. My favorites are Home Alone and Eloise at Christmas Time. Anyway StarMovies would play Home Alone 1 & 2 at Christmas eve so it’s no problemo. Also, I listen to Christmas songs. My playlists are from Libera Christmas Albums. They have great angelic voices and well, I must admit, they really look handsome. I think one of my Christmas wish list is a boy friend from the Libera. Maybe older than me. Oh no, not Mr. Prizeman. Hahaha lol.
At midnight we send our Christmas greetings to our friends and relatives. We call them or chat them. Sometimes we do video chat. And boast our food on the table. Hahaha. Lol. Then we open our Christmas gifts and wrap the other gifts we received so we can
recycle them and give them to other people we forgot in our list.
Christmas Day is also known as Pasko here in the Philippines. Filipinos would visit their relatives and pay their respect through Pagmamano. When we were younger, we termed it as “Bless po.” It was like asking for blessings, ahem, not just for mney. Lol. Anyway blessing is a blessing. The elders, especially the godparents give Ang Pao. Ang Pao is a red envelope which consists MONEY. Okay, lol, now that’s rude. What I love about Christmas Ang Pao is that the money within is a crisp bill/s fresh from the bank. And the money given is called Aguinaldo. When you’re a young adult, like me, it is shameful to ask for Aguinaldo. You’re lucky if they give you voluntarily, which usually happens to my case. *open arms to welcome the blessings* haha lol.
My sister, mother and I visits my grandma’s place. While my dad goes to his town to do their tradition. The day consists of long chats with the relatives and lunch and dinner. I usually play with my cousins and hang out with them around the town. And you know, visit my seminarian crush. Haha just kidding, I’m done with him, am I not? Lol.
At the end of the day, my family would go home. We will talk about our day while having dinner. Dad would show us the excess candies from the Santa Claus parade. Usually these candies would last til the whole year, if forgotten. Because my mom would put them on containers and we forget about them. And that was the history of the ghost of Christmas candies-unknowingly if the candies are still edible. Who cares? They’re candies!
Before I go to bed, every Christmas night, I often think of how fast the time went by. That Christmas is already over. And I start getting afraid of aging. But soon, I will realize that it’s a part of God’s gift. Some people don’t grow old because they die young. So still I’m lucky to grow old but still looking young. *sigh* Lol. But really, we must be thankful for all the blessings we have and remember that the real meaning of Christmas is the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ.
And also, start to forgive and spread the love. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!