10 REASONS WHY CHRISTMAS IS TRULY MORE FUN IN THE PHILIPPINES!
VOL. 1 NO. 1 DECEMBER 2018
BY: MARIA AZALEA FLORENTINO
Our Christmas celebration is probably the longest in Asia. It starts as soon as the "Ber" month comes in - September 1 to be exact - and officially ends on the Feast of the Three Kings. Because Christmas is the much-awaited holiday of the year. Filipinos prepare to make the celebration truly memorable for every member of the family. People look forward to for reunions, parties and OFWs taking the much-needed break from work to come home and celebrate Christmas with their loved ones in the Philippines. While Christmas is a worldwide festivity, we Filipinos have embraced it wholeheartedly with our unique style of celebration. Here are 10 good reasons why Christmas is truly more fun in the Philippines.
1. SIMBANG GABI OR MISA DE GALLO
The Simbang Gabi, which means evening mass in English, is a Catholic Pinoy tradition of nine days of hearing mass culminating on Christmas Eve. Filipinos believe that one's wish will be granted if they were able to complete the simbang gabi tradition. This Nine-Day Devotion starts December 16 and ends on Christmas eve.
The Simbang Gabi traces its origins from the early Spanish colonial period as a compromise for Filipino farmers to start working in the fields before sunrise to avoid the heat of the sun.
Now we have an anticipated Simbang Gabi, but its spirit and essence have not changed.
When you see mementos of Jose Marie Chan flood your social media feeds, those are tell-tale signs of the imminent Christmas celebration in the Philippines. Jose Marie Chan's song, "Christmas in Our Hearts," has indeed become etched in the hearts of almost all Filipinos. Its easily recognizable first line, "Whenever I see girls and boys selling lanterns on the streets," is a reflection of the uniquely Filipino lantern called the "parol."
The traditional Filipino parol is a five-point star lantern crafted from bamboo sticks, colorful papers, and cellophane. These days, the grandest and most beautiful parols are made in San Fernando, Pampanga, the Parol Capital of the Philippines.
Back in 1928, parols were used to light the villagers' way to church to pray. Nowadays, we see these beautiful stars displayed in every Filipino homes during Christmas season.
3. BIBINGKA AND PUTO BUMBONG
People go to the native bibingka and puto bumbong sold in roadside stands. After the mass, these snack stands are already prepared for their customers to enjoy the food with matching hot chocolate. These delicacies are rice cakes with a basic mixture of rice flour, sugar, and coconut milk cooked in native ovens and rolled in banana leaves. Bibingka can be enjoyed with a choice of toppings: grated coconut, salted egg, and kesong puti. The dark violet piping hot puto bumbong is served with margarine and a choice of one or both grated coconut and cheese.
"Namamasko po!" Is a signature line shouted by the children at our doorsteps after their carols with their makeshift drums and tambourines accompaniment. It is commonly expected for the residents to hand in an aguinaldo (gift) or coins to the carolers as they sing, "Thank you, thank you. Ang babait ninyo. Thank you."
5. NOCHE BUENA
The highlight of the Simbang Gabi is the family's shared meal on Christmas eve called Noche Buena. After the ninth day Simbang Gabi mass, families head home to feast on ham, or lechon, queso de bola, fruit salad, etc. Afterwards, people start exchanging of gifts among all family members, OFWs yearn to be home, especially every Christmas season with images of a joyous family Noche Buena.
On Christmas Day, children wear their Christmas clothes and head on to visit their godparents for the much-coveted Aguinaldo or pamasko in the form of gifts or money. During the visit, children show respect to their elders by doing the traditional mano.
The Belen is the Filipino version of the Nativity, which showcases the Holy Family. Belens are usual décors in homes, schools, and business establishments.
Filipinos made a local version of Secret Santa to Monito-Monita traditional wherein gifts are exchanged within a group of participants. Each one will give an anonymous gift giver to another. Individual identities are revealed on a chosen day, usually at Christmas parties.
9. FEAST OF THE THREE KINGS
Christmas officially concludes in the Philippines with the celebration of the epiphany or the Three Kings. Filipinos hear mass once again to celebrate this special day.
The panunuluyan is a reenactment of Joseph and Mary's search for shelter for Mary to give birth to Christ. Usually, this can be witnessed in some provinces on Christmas Eve.
Filipinos are known for having a happy and resilient spirit amidst chaos and unfortunate events. Our three-month long Christmas celebration is a testament to how much we value family, tradition, and merriment because these are a few of the things that bind the family and make us truly Filipino. [K]