Christmas in the Philippines is like no other. It is filled with celebrations and customs. Filipino Christmas means lights, music, feasts, and time spent with family and friends.
Filipinos know how to celebrate this season, full of joy and love. Allow me to share with you, how Filipino’s celebrate Christmas and how you can make the most out of it.
“Ber” Months as the start of the Christmas Season
Did you know that the Philippines has one of, if not, the longest Christmas season? Filipinos love to celebrate this season for as long as they can.
Normally, the Christmas seasons starts as soon as the “Ber” months draw closer. This is very apparent when the popular Jose Mari Chan song starts playing on radios, malls as soon as the first day of September comes.
Christmas Songs and Carols
Filipinos love to sing. During Christmas, this love translates to the tradition of carolling. Children go from house to house singing carols to spread the spirit of Christmas.
They usually form groups and have their customised musical instruments ready.
In return, households are expected to give them a small amount of money.
Christmas Lantern (Parol)
A Christmas lantern or parol is the most iconic decoration in the Philippines.
It is usually made from bamboo, paper, or capiz shells and comes in various colours, designs and sizes.
For Filipinos, the parol is the symbol of the star that led the Three Kings to the town of Bethlehem on the night Jesus Christ was born and is a staple in most households.
Monito-Monita (Kris Kringle)
Giving gifts is a Filipino way of showing love and gratitude to their family and friends.
During Christmas Eve, families gather around the Christmas tree for the activity while music is playing in the background.
The mechanics of monita-monita are similar to secret Santa, only that the gift-giver reveals the name of his or her ‘monito’ or ‘monita’ and describes them to the group rather than the other way around.
Aguinaldo (Cash Gifts)
In the Philippines, the word aguinaldo is also known as cash-gifts.
During Christmas, children anticipate getting cash and presents from their relatives and godparents.
Before they receive their aguinaldo, children must pay their respects to their relatives or godparents by taking their hands and whispering “mano po, ninong, mano po ninang,” which translates to “bless me godfather or godmother”.
Simbang Gabi (Dawn Mass)
Simbang Gabi is a tradition where Filipinos attend a nine-day series mass in preparation for Christmas. It starts from the 16th of December until Christmas Eve.
The last day of the Simbang Gabi falls on Christmas Eve. It is also known as Misa de Gallo. There is a saying that if you finished attending the Simbang Gabi, you can have your wish granted.
Filipinos also look forward to the delicacies sold from stalls around the church. They love to eat bibingka (rice cake cooked in clay pots) and puto bumbong (a purple rice cake cooked inside a bamboo tube), especially after attending a mass.
Not only do you get to fill your belly with good food, but you also get to spend time and bond with your family and loved ones over a meal.
Christmas to A Filipino
Christmas is a time where Filipinos are reminded of their sense of community and family. Apart from the food, celebrations, lights, music, time spent with family and friends during this time is the most important.
I believe that Filipino Christmas can be experienced whether you are in the Philippines or not. It is part of who you are whether you have been born, grew up, or spent times of your life in the Philippines.