Merry ChristmasChristmas in the Philippines is filled with unique, family oriented traditions. It is the most important holidays in the country even more important than one’s own birthday. Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion, with estimates 85 percent of the population belonging to this faith in the Philippines. Filipinos truly keep Christ in Christmas. The tradition evolves from an old customs called Simbang Gabi or Night Mass where people wake up as early as 3am to prepare to attend a mass which usually starts at 4am where the story of nativity is read from the bible for nine days until Christmas Eve. After the mass, families love to eat native delicacies such as bibingka (rice flour and egg based cake), salabat (hot ginger tea) and tsokolate (thick native cocoa). Vendors sell these just outside the church.

The parol or star lantern is what symbolizes Christmas in the Philippines. These lanterns display dazzling, colorful lights especially at night. You will find parols hanging on the street lamps, offices, and malls. It represents the guiding light, the star of Bethlehem. It represents hope…. Noche Buena a traditional Christmas Eve feast is a time of thanksgiving and is like an open house in every home. Family, friends and neighbors are welcome to eat and drop by to wish everyone a Maligayang Pasko or a Merry Christmas. Children must take their godparents and elderly relatives hand to their forehead as a sign of respect and ask for blessings it’s called “mano po”. Christmas in the Philippines is a time for families, friends and it’s absolutely unique over there. It’s been a long seventeen years since I have seen Christmas in my hometown of Cavite. Though the poverty is still there I am proud to say that nothing compares to the Christmas celebration in the Philippines. But as the saying goes the most important thing during the holidays is being with your love ones. I am so lucky that I have family and friends here to celebrate Christmas with. I hope you had a meaningful holidays. May you have a great year ahead!

From my family to yours Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon. Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year!