3 Ways Filipinos Celebrate The Christmas Season

Filipinos Christmas Day
Saint Mary Magdalene Church, the centuries-old heritage church of Kawit in Cavite, beckons with its twinkling lights. Photo from author.

Greetings of “Maligayang Pasko at Manigong bagong Taon!” (Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year) can be heard uttered by Filipinos all over the country and around the world as the country prepares to celebrate Christmas Day and another New Year.

Though Christmas celebrations around the world appear to be waning and are slowly being replaced by the modern secular holiday spirit and commercialism, the Filipino Christmas spirit is kept evident, vibrant, and still very much alive through our unique Filipino Christmas Traditions.

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Christmas in the Philippines is celebrated on the new PHLPost “Maligayang Pasko 2019” postage stamps featuring the Children’s choir and their families singing to usher the “Simbang Gabi”. Credits to PHLPost.

Here are three ways Christmas is made uniquely Pinoy:

1. Longest Christmas, also known as the Ber-Months

September and Jose Mari Chan’s songs usher in the World’s Longest Christmas Season in the Philippines. Screen capture from Department of Tourism video.

A unique Filipino Christmas tradition that gave us the title of having the “longest Christmas season in the world” starts in September and ends at the Feast of Epiphany that falls on the first Sunday of January in the New Year.

Starting every September 1, famous Christmas songs start to play in houses, malls, in public transport, and on radio. Some radio stations even play Christmas music by Jose Mari Chan and other popular holiday tunes at exactly 12 am on September 1 to welcome the Christmas season. Christmas decorations and twinkling lights are put up on houses, malls, and public places.

2. Misa de Gallo or Simbang Gabi

Completing the 9 days of Novena Masses at dawn or night is done to both honor Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, and to have a wish granted. Screen capture from Department of Tourism video.

The Simbang Gabi tradition originated during the Spanish colonial period to honor Mary, the blessed mother of Jesus Christ. It is a nine-day series of early dawn masses that start December 16 and lasts until the 24th on Christmas eve.

Many Filipinos are practicing this tradition and many believe that if they are able to complete the 9 days, they will be blessed and a favor will be granted.

More recently, to accommodate the people coming from work, the Simbang Gabi masses are celebrated not only in churches but also in other locations like malls and parks, and are also celebrated in the evening instead of dawn. Even Pope Francis celebrated the mass of Simbang Gabi with Filipinos in the afternoon at the Vatican, the first in the history of the papacy.

3. Puto Bumbong and Bibingka

Puto Bumbong sellers line up beside the church, ready to feed the early morning risers and church-goers.

Filipino food Puto Bumbong and Bibingka are the all-time-favorites during the Christmas season. They are traditionally the post-Simbang Gabi “kakanin” (rice cake snacks).

Vendors with their quaint stalls are lined up on the side of churches offering these traditional rice cakes with free “home brewed” coffee or salabat (ginger tea) to warm the body in the early morning air and wash down the sticky rice cakes. Recently, the traditional puto bumbong’s toppings, of coconut shavings and paldo brown sugar, leveled up with a version of the yummy Overload Puto Bumbong that adds sweetened milk and cheddar cheese.

TELL US in the comments below about your favorite Filipino Christmas tradition!

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