Christmas is truly near and this is the time of the year where every Filipino family gathers and cherishes. Just like in any other part of Filipino culture, celebrating Christmas in the Philippines is way different than in other countries from the tradition, food, and even the length.
Most countries that celebrate Christmas (especially western ones) celebrate Christmas as a holiday where Santa Claus, the Christmas tree, and snow are the main things that pop off when thinking about the holiday there. Here in the Philippines, Filipino Christmas is in almost every Filipino house and a lot are centered on religion, Christmas lights, and Filipino food.
Christmas here is truly unique. Here are some Christmas traditions that can be only experienced here in the country.
The “ber” Months
In other nations, you’ll start seeing Christmas lanterns and Christmas balls during December. Here, you can hear Jingle Bells as early as September and this is because the Philippines has the longest Christmas celebration in the world. If you are a retail worker in a mall, expect to hear All I Want For Christmas Is You for the next five months Yes, that includes January of the next year.
Here in the Philippines, the Feast of the Three Kings also known as The Epiphany is celebrated every January 6. Homilies in masses dedicate this celebration to Melchor, Gaspar, and Baltazar, the three magi who visited and gave gifts to Jesus after his birth.
No other country in the world has the tradition of waking up as early as 4 in the morning and attending a mass for nine days straight but the Philippines. From December 16-24, Filipino Christmas has the tradition of attending an early morning mass. This tradition was derived from the Spanish colonial era tradition of Filipino farmers attending early masses before work.
There is a belief that completing the nine Simbang gabi, will grant your Christmas wish for the year. Another exciting part of this tradition is the breakfast outside of the church after the Christmas mass. Vendors offer Filipino delicacies like bibingka, puto bumbong, goto, coffee, salabat, and other meals that keep the body warmer.
Noche Buena and Media Noche
In most parts of the world, people wake up during the midnight of Christmas day to open up gifts under the Christmas tree and later in the evening, have their Christmas dinner. Here in the country, we have our Noche Buena where Filipinos have dinner during this time. The preparation of Noche Buena is one of the ways Filipino families bond together and show love to each other.
Some of the traditional staple food for the Noche Buena is spaghetti, queso de bola, Filipino fruit salad, ham, macaroni salad, and fruit cake. If a family has the money, they even put a lechong baboy at the center of the table. Whatever the food is, the importance of the Noche Buena is togetherness during Christmas day.
And when the New Year is approaching, another feast is prepared by Filipino families six days after the Noche Buena xand this is the Media Noche. During the Media Noche, there are 12 assorted round fruits on the dinner table as it was believed that this will bring luck to the incoming year. The Media Noche is celebrated during the midnight of New Year’s Day.
During Christmas in the Philippines, children are usually on the hunt for their ninongs and ninangs because here in the Philippines, gifts don’t only come in the form of wrapped presents; they also come in money inside a red envelope. Godparents give different amounts to their godchildren and if you’re the favorite one, you might get a big blue one.
Traditionally, children can only have three godparents during their baptism, two godmothers and one godfather for girls and two godfathers and one godmother for boys. However, this tradition is also different in the Philippines because here, you can have as many as you want.
Filipinos put a twist on exchanging gifts during Christmas in the Philippines. This usually happens during Christmas parties in schools and offices. The rule is simple, pick a name from the draw lots and give them something within the price range the group has agreed upon. The twist of this is that no one will find out who their “monito” or “monita” is and no one can guess what they’ll be receiving from them.
In some cases, participants of the gift exchange buy random gifts based on the amount agreed upon. These gifts will be raffled later at the Christmas party. When this system is implemented, unisex gifts are the best to buy because anyone can use them and it’s a safe option.
Suggested Read: How to Design your Dining Room for Christmas
It’s not Christmas if you don’t see a bunch of kids knocking on doors and singing Filipino Christmas songs. In other countries, caroling means singing Christmas songs with coordinated outfits and high-value production. Here, it means children singing Jingle Bells with instruments made from recycled materials.
However, some adults also do this tradition and of course, their renditions of Christmas classics are more prepared. Christmas carols start as early as November, depending on the city you live in. Some of the popular songs sung in Christmas carols here in the Philippines are “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” and “Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit.”
Jose Mari Chan
Filipino singer Jose Mari Chan is an icon when it comes to Christmas here in the Philippines. As early as September, you will hear the famous lines “whenever I see girls and boys selling lanterns on the streets…” everywhere. His album Christmas In Our Hearts is the best-selling album in the country selling 800,000 units.
The Filipino Christmas spirit
The Christmas spirit in the Philippines is truly unique and wonderful. Everyone can agree that Christmas this year will still be magical despite being the second pandemic Christmas we will have two years in a row. There’s nothing like Filipino Christmas especially if you are celebrating it on your house and lot.
And if you are looking for a house and lot this Christmas, there’s no better option than Camella. Camella is a trusted real estate developer in the Philippines for 40 years. Camella is here so you and your family can have your own secure home where you can create memories and spend Filipino Christmas together.
Suggested Read: Filipino Christmas and the Spirit of Family and Community