How to Celebrate Christmas in the Philippines
Christmas in our “Filipino” Hearts
Christmas in the Philippines is like no other. It is filled with celebrations and customs. Filipino Christmas means lights, music, feasts, and time spent with family and friends.
Filipinos know how to celebrate this season, full of joy and love. Allow me to share with you, how Filipino’s celebrate Christmas and how you can make the most out of it:
“Ber” Months as The Start of the Christmas season
Did you know that the Philippines has one of, if not, the longest Christmas season? Filipinos love to celebrate this season for as long as they can.
Normally, the Christmas seasons starts as soon as the “Ber” months draw closer. This is very apparent when the popular Jose Mari Chan song starts playing on radios, malls as soon as the first day of September comes.
Houses and buildings within the entire country are filled with Christmas lanterns (parols), Christmas trees, parols, belens, and twinkling lights. This is also a sign that Filipinos have started to look forward to the best time of the year.
Christmas Songs and Carols
Filipino’s are known for their love for music. And because it is the holidays', popular songs and carols are a Christmas staple.
One of the most famous songs you will hear is Jose Mari Chan’s “Christmas In Our Hearts.” When you hear this song, you will know that the holidays are just around the corner. This song truly encapsulated the spirit and tradition of Filipino Christmas. Aside from Christmas in Our Hearts, Filipinos also look forward to various songs that really capture the spirit of Christmas in the Philippines. These songs include Kumukutikutitap – a song written by the famous composer, musician, and conductor Ryan Cayabyab. Filipinos also love hearing the song from APO Hiking Society, “Malamig ang simoy ng hangin/Kay saya ng bawat damdamin,” this song really sets the mood. And the last song that Pinoy’s also look forward to hearing is the song of Aegis called Christmas Bonus. Filipino’s normally sing this song at Christmas with the favorite line “Kaya’t ibigay mo na ang aming Christmas bonus.”
Caroling is a popular Christmas tradition. Carolers are normally groups of kids who travel from house to house at night. They sing their favorite Christmas carols and use their musical instruments like tambourines and maraccas made with tins or soft drink caps. Some famous Christmas are Sa Aming Bahay Ang Aming Bati, Mano Po Ninong, Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit, Jingle Bells, etc. After giving them money as a gift for singing, the kids will thank the house owner in a form of a song.
Simbang Gabi is a tradition where Filipinos attend a nine-day series mass in preparation for Christmas. It starts from the 16th of December until Christmas Eve.
The last day of the Simbang Gabi falls on Christmas Eve. It is also known as Misa de Gallo. There is a saying that if you finished attending the Simbang Gabi, you can have your wish granted.
Filipinos also look forward to the delicacies sold from stalls around the church. They love to eat bibingka (rice cake cooked in clay pots) and puto bumbong (a purple rice cake cooked inside a bamboo tube), especially after attending a mass.
In other countries, like Sweden, Spain, Ireland, etc. most families celebrate during Christmas morning. In the Philippines, we celebrate right after the Christmas Midnight Mass.
Noche Buena is a meal that Filipino families share during Christmas eve. It is when families decide to prepare their favorites like Lechon, spaghetti, Morcon, bacon, Queso De Bola, and fruit salad.
Not only do you get to fill your belly with good food, but you also get to spend time and bond with your family and loved ones over a meal.
Filipinos love to exchange gifts with family and friends. Gift-giving can be more exciting when done with humor.
Monito Monita refers to a series of exchanging gifts among family members, friends, colleagues, and classmates. It may happen daily, weekly, or depending on what the group will agree on. Every gift-giving session each participant will draw the name of the person who will get their gift. But the name must not be revealed until the final gift-giving day.
Christmas is a time where families, friends, and loved ones reunite. For kids, it is one of their much-awaited time for their Aguinaldo or gifts. They normally start with the traditional “mano” which is a sign of respect. Then, you will hear them say the phrase, “Namamasko po.”
Christmas for A Filipino
Christmas is a time where Filipinos are reminded of their sense of community and family. Apart from the food, celebrations, lights, music, time spent with family and friends during this time is the most important.
I believe that Filipino Christmas can be experienced whether you are in the Philippines or not. It is part of who you are whether you have been born, grew up, or spent times of your life in the Philippines.
You can always bring the spirit of the “Philippine” Christmas wherever you go. Campfire Crates invites you and your kids to recreate some of the staples of Filipino Christmas. Experience making your own parols and tambourines as if you are celebrating here in the Philippines and experience why Christmas will always have a special place in our Filipino hearts.