Christmas, the longest holiday season for Christians especially for Filipinos, is the time of the year when every person take time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ with their families and loved ones. It is a season of forgiveness, love, generosity and thanksgiving.
Us, Filipinos, are known to be Christmas enthusiasts who start the Christmas season by September. As they say, Christmas starts at BER months.Flickering lights and decorations are common sight in houses, streets and commercial establishments.
The most common Christmas decoration in the Philippines is the ‘parol’ which is a bamboo frame in a shape of a star covered with colorful special papers and illuminated in the center.
For Catholics, Christmas will not be complete without the celebration of the holy mass early morning which commonly known as ‘simbang gabi’ or ‘misa de gallo’.
It is a tradition which originated in the early Spanish colonial period wherein the time of the mass is a practical compromise for farmers who began working in fields before sunrise.Simbang gabi is a nine-day series of masses in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Some believe that if they are able to complete the 9-day mass, a wish made on Christmas eve will be granted.
Children, on the other hand, have their own way of enjoying the season. Armed with tambourines or guitars, they would fill the streets and visit houses singing their favorite Christmas carols in exchange of small amount of money or candies.
Christmas parties are also everywhere during the season. Most of the time, the highlight of every party is the ‘Monito, Monita’ which is the giving and receiving of gifts from an anonymous person. The identity of the giver will only be revealed upon receiving the present.
Of course, the most-awaited time of the season is the Noche Buena on Christmas eve. During this time, family members and close friends gather together to share a sumptuous dinner serving the specialty of the family and other food. Lechon, pancit, ham, queso de bola and local delicacies are common on every family’s table.
On Christmas day, visiting relatives is also a tradition.Kids often wear their finest clothes and do‘mano’ as an act of respect to elders. As a reward, they will be presented with gifts like toys or money by their relatives or godparents. This is when they receive their ‘pamasko’.
Despite the influence of the technology in the new era, Christmas traditions in the country are still practiced and cherished. They are proofs that Filipino Christmas is indeed the merriest. /JP Vanessa M. Tse Wing