7 Christmas Activities Unique To the Philippines
There is no other country in the world like the Philippines, the culture, the people, the food and the amazing landscape. When it comes to the Christmas season, there is no other country in the world that celebrates Christmas like the Philippines.
To start with the Philippines is known as having the world’s longest Christmas celebration. Every year, Filipinos mark September 1st as the beginning of the countdown to Christmas. What this means is that as early as September, Christmas lights are hung and Christmas carols begin to be played in malls and public spaces. This period from September to December is known as the “Ber-Months” and incorporates all of the regular Christmas activities, plus some additional and some with Filipino twists.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at 7 Christmas activities that are unique to the Philippines.
Nothing says Christmas in the Philippines like Christmas lights. Everywhere you go during the Christmas season you will see that shop owners, home owners and Government agencies will hang lots and lots of Christmas lights. The streets and public spaces are lit up with flashing and colorful lights to celebrate the coming Christmas period. Shopping malls are known for their Christmas lighting displays, especially places like Landmark Shopping Centre in Makati, who are known for the special Christmas windows. The highlight of the Christmas season is the Ayala Triangle Gardens Lights & Sounds Show in Makati.
When it comes to Christmas lights, the Philippines are known for their Christmas lanterns which are called “Parol”. Parol are a uniquely Filipino decoration that traditionally are made in the shape of five pointed star and are constructed out of colorful papers and bamboo sticks. The hanging of Parol in the home, office, school or in public spaces is a common Philippines Christmas tradition as they enhance the Christmas Spirit. If you want to see how popular Parol are to Christmas in the Philippines, take a visit to Quezon City and check out Parol Row. Here you can by Parol of all different sizes and colors.
Monito – Monita
Monito - Monita is the Philippines version of what is also known around the world as Secret Santa or Kris Kringle. During Monito – Monita, gifts are exchanged anonymously, however there is a twist compared to Secret Santa. In Monito –Monita you have to give a small gift every day or every week, the frequency of which is decided by the group. For each scheduled gift giving an amount is nominated as well as a theme for the gift (Something soft, sweet, green, hard, etc.). The themes are designed to keep the gift giving exciting and different each day / week.
The Philippines has one of the larges Catholic populations in the world, and so when it comes to Christmas, religious activities are front and center. One religious activity that is undertaken by almost every Catholic Filipino is the Simbang Gabi. Simbang Gabi is a tradition that originated in the early Spanish colonial period as a practical compromise for Filipino farmers who began working before sunrise, to avoid working in the fields under the heat of the sun. In modern day Philippines, Simbang Gabi is a nine-day series of masses to honor Blessed Virgin Mary. To complete Simbang – Gabi you must attend mass before sunrise every day for 9 days from the 16th of December until Christmas Eve. Those that complete the 9 days of mass are said to be granted one wish.
In Philippines Christmas tradition, there is more importance on Christmas Eve than Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve at midnight a celebration called Noche Buena is celebrated in every Filipino household. During Noche Buena a feast traditional Filipino foods are served such as lechon, pancit, ham, queso de bola, and a lot more. Traditionally the family all get together for Noche Buena and this is the main time when the family are together and exchange their Christmas presents.
The Belen is a decoration that shows the Holy Family at the birth of baby Jesus, and is very similar to the Nativity Scene that is popular in western countries during the Christmas season. Not only is the Belen shown in many churches, it is also very common to see it in schools, homes, offices, and establishments Christmas. Belen can be displayed from the beginning of the “Ber Months” and traditionally are displayed until the Feast of Epiphany or Three kings (January 6), which marks the end of Christmas season in the Philippines.
Filipinos love to sing, this is evident from the number of Karaoke venues in the Philippines and the number of Filipino families that have Karaoke systems in their homes. So it is now wonder that when it comes to Christmas, Filipinos love to sing Christmas carols. In modern Christmas traditions, social groups and charities now send groups of carolers to business and public places and restaurants to raise money for their causes. This act means that what people are celebrating the Christmas season, they remember those who are less fortunate and donate money to ensure everyone has a Christmas experience.
Well I hope that this post has whet your appetite for what Christmas is like in the Philippines. If you visit the Philippines for work, but have never been in the Philippines for Christmas, this is something you should experience. If you are a tourist that is planning on visiting the Philippines soon, why not plan a trip during the “Ber Months” and see what Christmas is like in the Philippines.
And if you do visit, remember this phrase “Maligayang Pasko”. This is the Filipino way of saying Merry Christmas.