In the Philippines, the formal Christmas celebrations start on Dec. 16 when people go to the first of nine pre-dawn or early morning masses culminating on Christmas Day, Dec. 25. It is called Simbang Gabi in Filipino, also called Misas de Gallo. It’s always the day I start decorating the house for Christmas. It is also my Mom’s birthday. I missed my call to her on Dec. 16 this year. Rest in peace, Mom, I miss you. Christmas celebrations continue to January 6, the Feast of the Three Kings, making the Philippines the country that celebrate the longest Christmas season – 22 days.
Christmas customs in the Philippines are a mixture of native, Spanish, Chinese and American elements. The result is uniquely Filipino. In the olden days, when only one rice crop was sown, Christmas coincided with the harvest. Food was plentiful, and there was cause for thanksgiving. The Spanish superimposed the drama and symbolism of the Nativity, the Chinese lent their New Year customs of exploding firecrackers and giving cash gifts to godchildren, and the American added “Jingle Bells” and “White Christmas”.
Besides Santa Claus, Christmas Tree, Christmas Cards and Christmas Carols, the Filipinos’ main Christmas tradition is the Parol, a star lantern made from bamboo strips and colored cellophane paper and represents the star that guided the Wise Men. It is the most popular Christmas decoration found in every home in the Philippines.
Here is a tutorial on how to build a parol:
Maligayang Pasko at Masayang Bagong Taon.
(Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year).