The symbol of Christmas in the Philippines is not the Christmas Tree but the Parol that probably had its origins in the Mexican’s piñata. While parols come in all sizes, in Pampanga, the electric parols in later years stand 20 to 30 ft high, giving off a blaze of kaleidoscopic color and light that fills the evening sky.
Every house including the little bahay kubo, nipa hut have a small parol. Filipinos make parol, a Christmas lantern in the form of a five-pointed star. Sometimes it is inside a circle, sometimes not. It is made of bamboo strips and covered with cellophane paper in various hues. There is usually a light inside the star. These lanterns represent the star of Bethlehem, the guiding light that led the three wise men to the infant Jesus. Sometimes they finish it up with a few adornments like hanging tail or tassels at the end of the two downward points of the star. Sometimes they also put tassels on the other two points on both sides of the parol, leaving the top point to put a string to hang it up. Sometimes they put some designs like rays emanating from the corners of the intersection of the starpoints.
They start making parols a couple of months before Christmas. When we were young, we made a small parol and then as we got older, the parol got bigger and more colorful and elaborate. We cut strips of the bamboo, a plant with hollow stem. Bamboo which is so pliable can be bent into various shapes. Strips of bamboo are shaped into five pointed star. In the center where it forms the five sided frame, they put a 4-6 inch brace to make it 3 dimensional. It is also the place where they put the light on to create the illumination they want.
Kids and adults alike enjoy doing this tradition every year. Usually men cut the bamboo and the women cut the paper and glue them to the frame. At our home when I was growing up, we had a very wide front window, with five window panes, practically the whole width of the house. Dad would hang two big brightly colorful parols side by side to the top of the iron grill on the front window during the Christmas season. It was the only outside decoration we had but the house looked very festive.
Parols can be seen everywhere during Christmas season in the Philippines. It was and still is the main Christmas attraction at home, in stores and in churches throughout the country.
Maligayang Pasko at Masayang Bagong Taon.!