I grew up loving Christmas. It’s such a familial holiday and I can’t help but feel all sorts of fuzzy whenever December comes around. However, living as an expat for the past ten years made me realise how much I miss celebrating Christmas in the Philippines. Here’s why.
Christmas starts in September
As soon as the “ber” months roll in, Filipinos would start rolling out the Christmas decor.
All of the lights
In the Philippines, the parol, a traditional Christmas lantern symbolising the star of Bethlehem known to have led the three kings to baby Jesus is just as important as the Christmas tree. The Christmas Capital of the Philippines, San Fernando in Pampanga City, holds an annual festival for giant versions of these lanterns.
Photo from Filipino Life
There’s also a more recent Festival of Lights in Makati City. This has been featured on Conde Nast Traveler’s list of “Where to See Spectacular Christmas Lights Around the World” — alongside Champs-Elysées in Paris, Somerset House in London, Kobe Luminarie in Japan, and Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen.
(Photo from Dad in Manila)
Did you know that the Philippines is the third largest Catholic country in the world? In the run up to Christmas from 16th-24th December, Filo Catholics would attend a devotional series of masses which start from between 3am – 5am. The mass on 24th December is called Misa de Gallo (Spanish) or Misa de los Pastores (Portuguese). It’s a good start of the day and traditionally, Filos would go for rice cakes after the mass before heading off to school/work.
In the Philippines, the main Christmas meal happens late on Christmas Eve, instead of lunch on Christmas Day. My family usually starts around 10ish but most families wait until 12am Christmas Day.
Filo Christmas in London, circa 2011
Filos really go overboard with celebratory feasts – I’m talking about 10-20 dishes here. Noche Buena is one of the most lavish meals of the year, and it’s not as specific as having roast turkey/chicken dinner. Depending on family traditions, you’d probably see a variety of Western, Asian, and Filo food on offer as well as some staples including Christmas ham and quezo de bola.
And don’t forget the Philippine lechon, which Anthony Bourdain claimed as the best pork he’s had.
There ain’t no party like a Filo party. Really. During the holidays, expect to have celebrations with your high school friends, your grade school friends, your collage friends, your colleagues, your family on your mum’s side, your family on your dad’s side, your parents’ friends, your uncles, your aunts, your neighbours, your community groups, your church groups, and so on. December is a month of celebration – it’s Jesus’ birthday month, after all!
And if you’re hosting, clear up a dance floor whilst you’re at it and expect a full load of people rocking up a boogie and battling it out on the karaoke in your living room.
Filos are rather generous people and it’s lovely to see how thoughtful people are during the holidays. We give pressies to everyone – from our teachers to our staff to our all our relatives and our nearest and dearest.
But the best type of gift giving comes from those with charitable hearts.
It’s a long list of shopping to be ticked, but Filos see it as an act of sharing blessings.
Christmas is all about spending time with the family and being grateful for the blessing of life.
I love spending Christmas in the Philippines with my family because they’re such a laugh… from wearing matching clothes at some point during the season…
To going on road trips and short flights…
To just generally having a reason to smile every second of the season.
All these celebrations in the Philippines boil down to one thing. For most Filos, Christmas is all about the journey of Joseph and Mary and the birth of Christ. Which I suppose, embodies the true meaning of Christmas. Because really and truly, Christmas is all about finding home, and coming home.
I hope y’all have a very merry Christmas with all your loved ones!
I’m super excited to co-host this month’s travel link up because ’tis the season to be festive! Anything goes – be jolly, merry and bright!
How to link up your post:
Just pop your post up over the first week of the month (the 1st – 7th December), add it to the link up widget on Angie’s and Emma’s and Honey’s (that’s me!) from the 1st of the month.
There are no rules (Bah Humbug!) – just check out other bloggers involved in the travel link up; make a few comments here and there and tweet a few of the posts out to your followers that you think they will love. Share and care and spread some tinsel everywhere!
The Travel Link Up is open to all bloggers as long as the post is relevant!