It is no secret that Christmas in the Philippines is a big deal. The preparations and celebration are equally well thought out by many locals. Once the “ber” months hit, the city and the rest of the country start putting out decorations and gear up for the family festivities. From Christmas lights, ornaments, trees, displays and light shows, the list goes on. There are four tell-tale signs that signify the holiday season is officially here to stay.
4 Distinct Signs That Spell Out Christmas Season
Parol (Lantern) Displays
One clear sign people will notice about the holidays is the presence of parols everywhere. Parol is the Filipino word for lantern which is usually handmade by locals during the ber months. It’s usually made up of bamboo garden sticks, string, plastic tablecloth, coffee cup covers, small nails, electrical wires, LED bulbs, electric tape, scissors, tape measure, hammer, and wood glue.
Parols are great Christmas decorations that hang best at night when it’s dark and the lights begin to bring out the glow in the parol’s patterns. It’s often sold in street stalls by locals for every Filipino to purchase for their own homes.
Puto Bumbong is a popular dessert that Filipinos usually only get to enjoy during the holiday seasons. It’s a simple purple rice cake that is actually made precisely with a bamboo tube while being steamed. Puto Bumbong can actually be found in many Filipino restaurants but not everywhere in the city.
When puto bumbong stalls start to manifest near churches and city centers, that’s when you know Christmas has officially begun. Puto Bumbong is best eaten hot and is eaten best with grated coconut and muscovado sugar. This is also a great treat right after an early session of simbang gabi which is usually early in the morning before the sun even rises.
Simbang Gabi (Dawn Masses)
Simbang Gabi is a popular Filipino tradition during Christmas season which takes place early in the morning a few months before the 25th of December. People often mistaken these masses for late night masses but instead are held very early in the morning starting 3:00 am to 5:00 am before the sun even rises.
It is also a Filipino custom to complete all nine masses in order for all the blessings to come through and wishes to be granted. Simbang Gabi begins on the 16th of December until Christmas Eve, December 24, which is marked as the Misa de Gallo to conclude the nine dawn masses.
One other common occurrence during the holiday season is children caroling everywhere. Christmas caroling is not uncommon in Christmas traditions all over the world. In the Philippines, what makes caroling interesting is that it’s usually done by many street kids around the city. They come knocking in groups prepared with classic Christmas jingles they have practiced and rehearsed for just a small donation for the holidays. These are usually practices that help promote the spirit of giving during the holiday season.
For people who enjoy Christmas, experiencing the holidays in the Philippines is quite remarkable for its unique traditions. Whether you’re in for completing the nine dawn masses or just rally up for some puto bumbong, partaking in these Filipino Christmas customs helps hype locals and travelers alike on what the holiday season is all about; the spirit of community and thanksgiving.