Mostly Catholics, Filipinos start attending a series of Eucharistic celebrations on December 16. This dawn mass is called ‘Simbang Gabi’ (night worship) as it is still dark when most churches open for Catholics to attend mass.
Many churches start mass at 4:00 in the morning. In regional areas, the streets leading to the church are lined up with native delicacies such as “puto bumbong, suman and bibingka.” A traditional drink that goes with puto bumbong or suman is warm ginger tea called salabat.
The Philippines has the world’s longest Christmas season. The four months that end with the syllable ━ ber are considered Christmas months. Stores and households start playing carols on the first day of September! The holiday season extends beyond December 31st. It ends on the Feast of the Three Kings which falls on January 6.
A Christmas lantern called “parol,” usually in the shape of a five-pointed star is displayed in many homes. A bamboo frame is covered with rice paper or cellophane. Almost every family either makes or buys one to hang by the window or door. Many shopping malls display giant versions of the lantern. Traditionally, a candle is placed inside for light to shine through but for safety reasons, people now use bulbs.
Families, and many places display a nativity scene called “belen.” Christmas trees made of plastic are decorated with multi-coloured lights, tinsel and balls.
The Tagalog word for gift is “regalo,” but Filipinos have a special word for “Christmas gift: “pamasko.” The Filipino version of Secret Santa Claus is called Monito Monita or Kris Kringle. Many students and office workers hold gift exchanges during the Christmas season. Children receive fresh bills of money called “aguinaldo” when they visit their godparents and elderly relatives on Christmas day.
The “Noche Buena”
Every Filipino family looks forward to “Noche Buena”, the family dinner after the midnight mass.
Christmas morning is the time for visiting relatives. Filipinos wear new if not their best clothes. Children do “mano po,” which is kissing or bringing to their forehead the right hand of an elderly person. This is when they receive their pamasko, called “aguinaldo” or Christmas gifts from godfathers and godmothers. Christmas lunch and Christmas dinner are with the family.
The Editorial Staff of Philippine Sentinel wish you a very Merry Christmas!