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 season. 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.
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 beautiful.
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 the Philippines.
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. 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. Christmas 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 midnight. 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" (MerryChristmas). 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 intoxicating! The streets are well lit and are full of activities....