The Philippines is one of two mainly Christian countries within Asia, East Timor being the other one. Christmas in the Philippines is one of the largest and longest holidays within the archipelago. The Philippines has gained the distinction for celebrating the longest Christmas season in the world. People in the country are proclaiming Christmas carols right from September and variously lasting till Epiphany, January 9’s Feast of the Black Nazarene or the Feast of the Santo Niño de Cebú on the 3rd Sunday of January. The Church in the Philippines’ official observance begins from the start of the Simbang Gabi on the 16th of December until the Feast of the Epiphany that is celebrated on the year’s 1st Sunday.
The history of Christmas in the Philippines looks at the interesting feasts of the Christmas celebration within the country down the generations. The Philippine history for Christmas is being marked by customs, merry-making, legends, and symbols. Christianity has been introduced within the Philippines by the Spanish colonizers in 1500s.
The Amazing Christmas Celebration in the Philippines
Each of the different ethnic groups within the Philippines observes varied Christmas traditions, while the rest are normally common.
- Christmas Parties
In several urban areas such as Metro Manila, a lot of offices organize Christmas parties. Usually, there are carried out during the 2nd week of December, or before universities or schools continue holiday. Typical activities take in Monito/Monita or Kris Kringle, parlor games, and theatrical or musical performances. Others might even conduct fireworks displays.
- Misa de Gallo/Simbang Gabi
Night Mass or Simbang Gabi, Rooster’s Mass or Misa de Gallo (Spanish) is the novena of dawn masses that start from the 16th of December up to the Christmas Eve. Primarily, the Simbang Gabi is being practiced by Aglipayans and Catholic, having some independent Protestant and Evangelical Christian churches adopting the practice for having dawn services for pre-Christmas. Masses attendance is intended to display God devotion and keen expectation for Christ’s birth.
- Christmas Eve
For Filipinos, Bisperas ng Pasko or Christmas Eve on the 24th of December is being celebrated with the custom feast of Noche Buena, and Midnight Mass. Family members are dining together at about midnight on conventional yuletide fare, including queso de bola or the ball of cheese made of edam that is sealed within paraffin wax in red; pasta and noodles, tsokolate, pandesal, hamon (Christmas ham), pandesal, fruit salad and relleno. At this time, some families will open their presents as well.
In different schools and provinces, the journey of the Pregnant Virgin Mary and Joseph looking for lodging is being reenacted. The pageant, which is called traditionally as Pananawagan, Pananapatan, or Panunuluyan, is being modeled after the Las Posadas (Spanish).
- Christmas Day
In The Philippines, Christmas Day is mainly a family affair. Celebrated on the 25th of December, the Misa de Aguinaldo is normally one of the many Masses in which all the members of the family are present. It is celebrated normally between and midnight. It is the schedule preferred by several Filipinos who want to stay up late during Christmas Eve for a night long Noche Buena celebration.
- Niños Inocentes
Childermas or the Day of Holy Innocents is celebrated on 28th of December called as Niños Inocentes. People will celebrate the day through throwing practical jokes at each other, the same as April Fools’ Day.
- New Year’s Eve
On the 31st of December or the so called Bisperas ng Bagong Taon the Filipino families will gather for their Media Noche. It is a generous midnight feast which supposedly represents their expectance for prosperity within the coming year, while lasts till the next morning just like the Noche Buena conducted on the Christmas Eve. Filipinos normally make noise for both greeting the New Year as well as the belief the noise exorcises the surrounding of bad spirits. Irrespective of the annual ban, many people within several cities and towns normally light firecrackers or use more secure ways of merrymaking like banging on pans and pots, and blowing their car horns.
- Three King’s Day
Christmas season in the Philippines is indeed very long that it even has the Three King’s Day. Officially, Christmas ends on the Epiphany festival, more typically known as Araw ng Tatlong Hari or Dia de los Tres Reyes (Spanish) or Three King’s Day (English). The celebration for this day was once executed on the 6th of January (12th Night) yet the Catholic Church has moved its commemoration to the Sunday right after the New Year’s Day.
- Black Nazarene Festival
Starting on 2011, the Catholic Church in the Philippines has mandated the Christmas season ends on the Banquet of the Baptism of Jesus. Concluding festivities are being held on 8th and 9th January with Black Nazarene processions in Cagayan de Oro and Manila. These are performed in tribute for the image’s 1787 transfer to the present shrine located in Quiapo District’s basilica.
- Feast of the Santo Niño
The most recent date for the closing of the well known Christmas celebrations is known as the Feast of the Santo Niño or the Christ Child on the 3rd Sunday of January. The most associated image with the day is the supposedly phenomenal Santo Niño de Cebú, the very first Christian image that is introduced to the islands.
Caroling has been an appreciated tradition for most Filipinos. Normally named as Cumbancheros, carolers perform to give to charities or for some simple fun. Parol or lantern is one of the most remarkable symbols for Christmas in the Philippines. These Christmas symbols are handmade star-shaped lanterns. They are the ones symbolizing the Bethlehem’s star, which led the 3 wise men to the location of the baby Jesus.
The Philippines surely has an amazing and interesting celebration for the Christmas season that is why families in the country, whether rich or poor, really enjoy celebrating the season. In fact, a lot of foreign visitors have become very interested to celebrating their Christmas in the country. No matter how Filipinos celebrate the season, Christmas in the Philippines symbolizes only one purpose; to commemorate the birth of Christ.
Image courtesy of Phillip Bascon on Flickr.