Maligayang Pasko! Christmas, the Filipino Way
The air starts to smell like the sweet “bibingka” and “puto bumbong”. The night becomes brighter with clear skies above and twinkling lights below. The traditional “parol” can be seen everywhere. The mood is just festive and colorful. It’s December once again and Christmas is just around the corner. It is probably the month a lot of Filipinos are waiting for the most.
For Filipinos, Christmas season isn’t just about the birth of Jesus Christ. Being the only Christian nation in Asia before, the Yuletide is one of the biggest seasons celebrated in the country. But as time passes by, not only Christians celebrate. Regardless of religion, the people just feel a little bit more generous and forgiving. It is the season of love and sharing. But most importantly, it’s the time for family to be together once again.
With regards to religion, there are different ways to celebrate. But here are some Filipino Christmas traditions that signifies Pasko (Christmas) ng Pilipino.
- Early celebrations and music – The Philippines is known for the longest celebration of Christmas. As soon as the -ber months begin (September, October, November, December), people start to decorate their homes, go Christmas shopping and play Christmas songs on radios and television programs.
- Parols – are star-shaped Christmas lanterns hung in houses and establishments. It signifies the star that guided the path of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. Now, many modern variations, shapes and designs are used as decorations including huge Christmas trees.
- Puto-bumbong and bibingka – rice cakes available only on Christmas season. Puto-bumbong is cooked by putting the purple-dyed rice powder inside a bamboo and steaming it. Sugar, coconut grates or cheese are then added and served in banana leaves. Bibingka is prepared by cooking ground rice, coconut milk and eggs; traditionally cooked in clay pots lined with banana leaves.
- Caroling – A group of kids or friends gather together, make their handmade or carry simple musical instruments, sing Christmas songs in front of people’s gates and houses in hopes of receiving a handful of coins or some money from the household.
- Christmas parties and kris-kringle – The main theme of the season is love and sharing so it’s common to give presents. At schools and companies, exchange-gifts are done by randomly picking a name. Godparents remember their “inaanak”(godchildren) by giving presents either monetary or material things.
- Santa Claus and the Christmas socks – Christmas for most Pinoys are for kids. Parents ask their children to write to Santa and the kids have to behave properly in order to receive a present. Also, kids hang their socks on windows or on Christmas trees so Santa can put presents or coins and candies in it.
- Simbang-gabi or misa de gallo – basically for Catholics and Christians, dawn masses are held during the last 9 nights before Christmas day. It is usually as early as 4am from December 16th until 23rd. The church bells are rang as early as 3am to wake people up. On the 24th, the mass is held at midnight. It is said that your wish may be granted if you complete all 9 nights of mass.
- Noche Buena – It is the sumptuous midnight meal on Christmas eve shared with family and loved ones. Families prepare their favorite dishes but staple on the menu are keso de bola (cheese balls) and ham.
- illuminations – from the very simple and traditional celebration, the Philippines is now known for its grand Christmas illuminations. Shopping malls and parks are decorated with thousands of lights. Take for example, the Ayala Triangle lights and sound show, situated at the heart of Makati’s Central Business district, is an array of thousand of lights and haze effects accompanied by medley arranged by award-winning musicians and composers. This year’s theme is Disney in partnership with Disney Philippines. The show runs from 6am to 10pm, with 30-minute intervals. The display is said to be on a par with other spectacular luminaries in the world such as Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark, Champs-Elysees in Paris, France, Kobe Luminaire in Kobe, Japan.
Expensive presents or just a heartfelt greetings, lavish meals or simple “salo-salo” (eating together), together or far apart, Christmas is felt everywhere. it’s not defined by any material thing.(But of course, it is a great season for commerce) But more than that, the spirit and the true sense of the season may not be forgotten nor overshadowed by worldly pleasures and desires. Just as the song says,”Why don’t you give love on Christmas day?”.
Maligayang Pasko po sa inyong lahat! (Merry Christmas to all of you!)
with regard to: relating to a particular subject
signify(v): represent something
lantern(n): a type of lamps, typically with handle to be carried or hung
monetary(adj): relating to money
Pinoy(n): Filipino people or culture
sumptuous(adj): very impressive and expensive
staple(n): a food that is needed and used all the time
array(n): a group of people or things, especially that is large or impressive
haze(n): smoke, dust, or mist in the air which make the vision unclear
be on a par with: be at the same level or standard with
spectacular(adj): very impressive
lavish(adj): large, impressive or expensive