Christmas: A National
The Philippines is known as the "Land of Fiestas," and at Christmas time, this is especially
true. Filipinos are proud to proclaim their Christmas celebration to be the longest
and merriest in the world. It begins formally on December 16 with attendance at the
first of nine pre-dawn or early morning masses and continues on nonstop until the first
Sunday of January, Feast
of the Three Kings, the official end of
The Philippines is the only Asian country where
Christians predominate. Majority of its people are Roman Catholic. Christmas,
therefore, is an extremely important and revered holiday for most Filipinos. It is a
time for family, for sharing, for giving, and a time for food, fun, and friendship.
To most Filipinos, Christmas is the most anticipated
fiesta of the year and is celebrated accordingly. The splendid climate of this
tropical island nation, the abundance and beauty of its flowers, and lovely landscape, its
multitude of culinary delights, and above all its warm-hearted people with their true
devotion to family and faith all contribute to a holiday celebrated in the true
Philippines fiesta tradition.
Filipino Christmas Decors
image from Pasko
of Filipino parol,
or star lanterns,
is an essential
in the Philippines.
dazzling colorful lights
especially at night.
There is no winter or snow in the
Philippines at Christmas time. There are very few pine trees. There is no
traditional Yule log or fetching of the pine sprigs from the woods. And Santa Claus,
though visible in displays and believed by most Filipino children to exist, seldom
comes bearing gifts.
Even without snow or pine trees, there's no doubt
it's Christmasin the Philippines. Filipino Christmas decorations are abundant and
The bamboo parol (pah-role), or star lantern, is the
symbol of Christmas in the Philippines, representing the guiding light, the star of
Bethlehem. It emits a warmth unparalleled among holiday adornments and is unique to
Filipinos enjoy decorating their homes not only with
star lanterns but also with all sorts of Christmas decors. Brightly colored buntings
or streamers are hung inside and out. Often, Christmas cards that illustrate
scenes in the Philippines are pinned on red and green ribbons. The cards are
then hung in the sala, or living room, for all to enjoy. Candles and wreaths are also
common adornments. Recently, Filipinos have begun choosing wreaths and other
decorations made with local native materials rather than those patterned after western
designs. And many houses, particularly those in the urban areas are strung with tiny
multi-colored lights both inside and out. Most Filipinos think that decorating their homes
for the Christmas holidays is a must.
It is a Filipino
for children to visit their
godparents and elderly relatives
on Christmas day.
This child is showing respect
for his godmother by taking
her hand to his forehead.
In return, he receives a blessing or a gift.
Christmas in the Philippines is a mixture of
Western and native Filipino traditions. Santa Claus, the Christmas tree, sending
Christmas cards, and singing carols have all been inherited from the cultures of the
West. However, these have all been adapted to fit the nature and personality
of the Filipino people.
Eve in the Philippines is one of the traditions most families celebrate. It is a
night without sleep and a continuous celebration moving right into Christmas Day.
As December 24th dawns, the last Mass of Simbang Gabi is attended; then
preparation begins for Noche Buena, which is a family feast that takes place after
The Noche Buena
is very much like an open house celebration. Family, friends, relatives, and
neighbors drop by to wish every family member "Maligayang
Pasko" (Merry Christmas). Food is in abundance, often served in buffet style.
Guests or visitors partake of the food prepared by the host family (even though
they are already full or bloated!). Among the typical foods prepared in the
Philippines during Christmas are: lechon (roasted pig), pancit, barbecue, rice, adobo, cakes
(Western and native rice cakes), lumpia, etc. There is also an abundance of San
Miguel beer, wine, and liquor, which makes the celebration of Christmas indeed
The streets are well lit and are full of activities.
The children run in and out of the house to play, to eat, and to play again. The Christmas Eve
gathering provides an opportunity for a reunion of immediate and distant family
members. Some families may choose to exchange gifts at this time; others wait until Christmas day.
In general, the center of a family's Christmas gathering
is always the lola, the endearing term used
for a family matriarch or grandmother, who is deeply respected, highly revered, and always
present. Filipinos remember how their lola had their children form a line and step
up to receive a small gift of some coins. The older the child, the more coins he or
Some families have a talent show during Christmas Eve
celebration. Children are asked to perform. One might sing a Christmas song,
others might play a musical instrument, or others may recite a poem or do a dance.
The celebration continues until about 6 o'clock in the morning. Those who
cannot attend Mass the night before will go to the morning Mass on Christmas day.
day is a popular day for children to visit their uncles, aunts, godmothers, and
godfathers. At each home they are presented with a gift, usually candy, money,
or a small toy. Food and drinks are also offered at each stop. It is a day of
family closeness, and everyone wishes good cheer and glad tidings.
begins arriving home after midnight Mass,
the little ones are awakened from their naps.
The food is brought out and the festivities begin.
The table is set buffet style with as many 15-20 food items.
The following food recipes are prepared for this festivity:
(Pan-Fried Roast Pork)
(Oxtail Stew in Peanut Butter Sauce)
(Baked Stuffed Chicken)
(Chicken Rice Soup)
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GABI or MISA DE GALLO,
"midnight mass" or "mass of the rooster"
comes from the Catholic custom
of gathering for celebration of the
Eucharist in the pre-dawn hours of each of the nine days before
STARTING after midnight tonight (15 December), church bells will be
ringing very early in the morning until Christmas Day. Today marks the
beginning of the Christmas novena, or Simbang Gabi, in Tagalog.
For Filipino Catholics the nine-day celebration before Christmas
is a tradition with deep roots in the country's religious culture.
Literally, simbang gabi means ``night worship.'' The name
comes from the Catholic custom of gathering for the celebration
of the Eucharist in the pre-dawn hours on each of the nine days
before Christmas. Hence, this celebration is also known by its
popular Spanish name as the misa de gallo, or ``mass of the
rooster.'' Catholic churches throughout the country will be
ringing their bells around 3:00 or 3:30 in the morning long before
the roosters crow.
The origins of this Filipino custom are obscure. Perhaps the
tradition came from Mexico, like many Catholic practices and
devotions found in the Philippines. One old Spanish name for this
pre-Christmas series of daily masses is Misa de Aguinaldo. The
phrase offers some insight into the meaning of simbang gabi. In
Spanish aguinaldo means a gift. So Misa de Aguinaldo suggests a
gift for the Child Jesus. Whatever its title, this pre-Christmas
observance is surely a sacrifice of love for it requires dedication
and discipline to get out of bed so early while yet fulfilling all
one's daily duties.
Over the generations, local Filipino faith communities have
creatively adapted simbang gabi. While only candles and lanterns
are used in rural areas, as in centuries past, most churches today
have electric lights, lanterns, and sound systems in keeping with
the economic means of the congregation. So amplifiers now blare
the Christmas music and the readings from the World of God and
the Eucharistic prayers. Over adaptations are deeper. For example,
many urban parishes now celebrate simbang gabi around 8 or 9 in
the evening, not just in the morning, in order to accommodate the
needs of people on a great variety of work schedules. The custom
is also kept among Filipinos living elsewhere in the world. No
matter how or when this celebration takes place, the annual
simbang gabi provides a strong indication of the depth of
Catholicism in the hearts of Filipinos.
For those not taking in this celebration, simbang gabi may appear
to be too much noise too early in the morning. But a modicum of
reflection easily allows everyone to gain insight into the deeper
meaning of this celebration. Simbang gabi expresses the faith of
Filipinos who hold the same core belief as all Christians, namely,
that God is present in human history, even in the simple joys and
anxieties of life's humblest activities. Filipino Catholics who
sincerely live their belief in the incarnation merit the respect and
admiration of the whole nation.
So, let the bells of the Misa de Gallo break the pre-dawn silence of
the whole land. The bells offer a message of hope in God and of
hope for peace on earth.
15 December 1999
from the Editorial of Manila Bulletin, Online Edition
That unmistakable flavor
of Christmas, Pinoy-style
are two native holiday treats
that are bound to the
pre-drawn Misa de
Aguinaldo, which starts December
16 and is held everyday for
nine days until Christmas
image from Pasko
In the city, even well-dressed matrons buy them dripping with
melted butter and sprinkled with niyog to get them going for the
nine dawn Masses.
The number of street stalls serving these delicacies has
dwindled through the years, as has the number of
church-goers during the Simbang Gabi. But
there are still a
few restaurants in town that serve the faithful who attend
the dawn Mass.
Where to go if you'd rather have a sit-down breakfast of
puto bumbong and bibingka?
KSP Grill on Meralco Avenue, Ortigas Center has gone as
far as setting up a bibingka and puto bumbong station out
Chateau 1771 in El Pueblo Pasig and Portico in Malate
serve the native cakes all day every day during the holiday
season. One can order puto bumbong and bibingka as early
as 7 a.m. or any time until midnight.
Not to be outdone, Dusit Hotel Nikko has come up with a
offering that includes bibingka or puto bumbong,
served with coffee, tea or salabat (ginger tea), at P180 and
P145, respectively, available daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. at
The Cafe Restaurant.
At EDSA Shangri-La, the Garden Café includes B & B
(bibingka and bumbong, not bed and breakfast) in its
For its holiday fare, Hotel Inter-Continental Manila's Café
Jeepney offers them with salabat from Dec. 16 to 31, 6-10
a.m., and until Jan. 7, 3-7 p.m.
December 15, 1999
from Philippine Daily Inquirer Online Edition
a Parol or Star Lantern
lantern is an essential Christmas decoration in the Philippines.
Many Filipinos make their own lanterns. Follow the direction below and
you too can make your own lantern.
Giant Lantern Festival
10 strips of wood, 1/4 inch wide 10 inches
long (or strip made from matte board, 1/4 inch wide and 10 inches long)
5 trips of wood, 1/4 inch wide, 3/4 inches long
2 12 inch squares of tissue paper, white and colored
2 8 inch by 16 inch pieces of tissue paper, white and colored
5 10-inch by 3-inch pieces of colored and white tissue paper
2 pieces of thin, flexible wire cut into 6 inch lengths
1 piece of thin, flexible wire cut into a 10-inch length
1. Make a star pattern, and glue five
of the 10 inch strips of wood or matte board to make a star. Allow the glue to dry
completely. Repeat with the other five strips. The two stars should be
2. At the five points of one of the
stars, glue the five 3/4 inch strips of wood so they are in an upright position.
Allow glue to dry.
3. Place a dab of glue on the top of
each of the shorter strips. Position the second star directly over the first
one. Apply a bit of pressure at the joints to be sure they affix to the shorter
4. To finish joining the stars, place a
dab of glue at the five points of the star. Press together the points of the two
stars. Use tape to secure the points until the glue dries. Remove the
tape. Be careful not to pull the points apart.
5. To cover the star, place the glue on
the surface of the outside strips (those that make up the points) on one side of the
star. Position one of the 12 inch by 12 inch pieces of tissue paper on the side with
the glue, so the star is centered on the paper. Keep the tissue as smooth and as
tight as possible. Once the glue has dried, turn the star over, and repeat this step
with the other 12 inch by 12 inch piece of tissue paper. Again, allow the glue to
6. Trim some of the excess tissue
paper, leaving enough to cover the sides of the star. Cut 7/8 inch slits in the
7. Fold each flap over, and glue it to
its corresponding wooden strip of the star. Once the flue dries, trim any excess
8. While the star is drying, make the
paper tassels. These look best if a different color tissue paper from that which
covers the star is used. Fold each of the two 8 inch by 16 inch pieces of tissue
paper so that the 16 inch length is in half. With the scissors, make cuts 3/8 inch
wide and 6 inches long, leaving 2 inches at the folded side.
9. Open one of the tassels so that
there is fringe at both ends. Fold the tassel in half length-wise, and squeeze both
sides of the center. Poke one half of a 6 inch wire through the center of the
tassel. Repeat these steps with the other tassel.
10. Fold the tassel in half so that all
the fringe is together. Wrap the bottom half of the wire (that which is now covered
with the fringe) around the area just at the top of the fringe. Repeat with the
other tassel, using the second 6 inch wire.
11. Attach the tassels to the lower
points of the star by poking the 3 inches of exposed wire through the tissue paper on the
12. Poke 2 inches of the 10 inch wire
through the tissue paper at the top point of the star. Wrap the 2 inches of wire
around the point, and wrap the end around the remaining wire. Use the 8 inches of
wire left over to form a hanger.
13. To cover the wires of tassels at
the bottom points and to put tassels on the other three points, fold in half each of the
five 10 inch pieces of tissue paper. With scissors, make cuts 1/8 inch wide and 2
1/2 inches long, leaving 1/2 inch at the top.
14. To attach the tassels, spread glue
on the uncut 1/2 inch area. Carefully, wind the glued end around each of the
five points of the star.
15. Decorate the star using markers,
16. Cut patterns out of construction
paper, and glued them on the star. Make up a pattern. To do so, fold a sheet
of construction paper in half. Copy the pattern onto the paper, making sure the fold
on the paper corresponds with the fold on the pattern, and then cut the pattern out.
Use a zigzag motion with the scissors to create a unique edge. Unfold the paper,
and place glue only on the longer edges. Position the pattern on the star with the
glued end toward the tassel. Repeat this step with the other four points of the
17. Paper scallop can be glued to the
sides of the star. With a compass, draw a 4 1/2 inch circle on the construction
paper. Cut the circle out, fold in half, and cut along the fold line. Fold
the half circle in half four more times until you get a very small wedge.
18. Open the paper up, and refold using
the fold lines to get accordion pleats. repeat these steps with nine more half
circles of the same size. Glue one paper scallop to each wood support on all sides
of the star. You may also make scallops using 6 1/2 inch circles. These can be
glued between the smaller scallops.
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Tagalog Christmas Songs
Tagalog Christmas songs
basically reflect the joyful spirit
of Christmas in the Philippines.
There are, however, some
songs that reflect the loneliness
of the season especially for
those whose love ones are
far away or who have been
2. Pasko Na Sinta Ko
3. Kay Sigla ng Gabi
4. Sino si Santa Klaus?
Pasko Na Naman
Pasko na naman, o kay tulin ng araw.
Paskong nagdaan, tila ba kung kelan lang.
Ngayon ay Pasko, dapat pasalamatan.
Ngayon ay Pasko, tayo ay mag-awitan.
Pasko, Pasko, Pasko na namang muli,
Pasko, Pasko, Pasko na namang muli!
Ang pag-ibig naghahari!
na Sinta Ko
Pasko na sinta ko
Kung mawawala ka,
Sa piling ko sinta,
Paano ang Pasko
At pagtitinginan tunay.
Nais mo bang kalimutang ganap
Ang ating suyuan at galak?
Kung mawawala ka,
Sa piling ko sinta,
Paano ang Paskong
Alay ko sa iyo?
Kay Sigla ng
Kay sigla ng gabi, ang lahat ay kay saya!
Nagluto ang Ate ng manok na tinola,
Sa bahay ng Kuya ay mayroong litsonan pa!
Ang lahat ay may handang iba't-iba.
Tayo na giliw, magsalo na tayo!
Meron na tayong tinapay at keso.
Di ba Noche Buena sa gabing ito,
At bukas ay araw ng Pasko!
si Santa Klaus?
Sino si Santa Klaus?
Ang tanong sa 'kin,
Ng anak kong bunso