There’s beauty in the Christmas Season. And what’s even more beautiful is that every country has its own set of traditions and practices to follow for the Yuletide. And while this may sound bias, I’m just gonna say it anyway.
Filipinos do it best!
There’s nothing like Christmas the way Filipinos do.
1. Christmas Season starts when the calendar goes -BER
Yes, you’ve read that right. The Filipinos celebrate the longest Christmas season in the world because it starts on the first day of September, not on December.
2. Setting up the belen
The belen refers to crib or manger of Jesus. In churches or households, people would set up their own belens representing the birth of Jesus. In this nativity scene, figures of the infant, Jesus; Mary, the mother; Joseph, the father; the three kings, shepherds, sheep and angels are displayed.
Christmas lights are famous all over the world as decorations. But in the Philippines, the special ornament that’ll complete the Christmas adoration is the parol — a big circle with a star in the middle, or just a big star designed with plastic, wire, wood and other recyclable materials.
4. Attending Simbang Gabi
Simbang Gabi means “night mass” in English. Filipinos attend masses late at night or at the wee hours of the morning nine days before Christmas. It has been a tradition to complete all nine masses with the belief that wishes or prayers will be granted to those who complete nine simbang gabis.
5. House Caroling
Christmas caroling in other countries are formal. Coordinated outfits. Great choir. Complete instruments.
However, in the Philippines, although some are formal, the ones that people normally witness are those children or adults going from one house to another to sing Christmas songs. Outfits, instruments and lyrics won’t matter as long as it’s lively. It’s more of a humorous affair than a serious one.
6. The Noche Buena
Christmas dinner falls on the eve of Christmas. Families gather to share a feast while waiting for the clock to strike twelve and welcome the midnight Christmas all together.
A lavish Noche Buena would include dishes like lechon, queso de bola, hamon, spaghetti and fruit salad.
While some Noche Buenas are not that festive, it’s the mundane act of preparing the meals that is meaningful. When people prepare the Noche Buena, it’s like preparing for a family reunion of family member that has been separated from the family for quite some time because of work or school.
Manito-Manita is the Filipino way of exchanging gifts. Before giving the gifts to your manito or manita, you’d have to describe your manito or manita, and sing the classic song I love my Manito/Manita, Yes I do, before giving the gift.
It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun and entertaining. ‘Tis the season to be jolly!
8. The Aguinaldo!
Kids, and maybe some adults, look forward to receiving red envelopes from godparents. And while gifts are fun to unwrap, getting these red ang paos are just as exciting!
9. Hello Media Noche!
The holiday season doesn’t stop on Christmas Day. Once December 25 ends, Filipinos would be busy preparing for the Media Noche, the New Year’s Eve Feast, to welcome the New Year!
The table is also adorned with 12 different round fruits; round being eternal and a symbol of good fortune, and 12 representing the 12 months of the year.
And once the clock strikes twelve, Filipinos would make as much noise as possible to drive away the bad spirits from spoiling the new year. People would bang their pans and pots together, make noise from car alarms, paper trumpets or torotots, and have fireworks.
10. The Feast of the Three Kings
The Feast of the Three Kings, or The Epiphany, refers to the day the Three Kings arrived or reached Jesus’ manger. It is also considered the last day of the lengthy Christmas season which falls on the first Sunday of January.
Filipinos may not be able to make snow angels, have snow fights, and wear thick coats on Christmas, but these traditions are more than enough to have warm and memorable holidays.
What are your favorite holiday traditions?