Maligayang Pasko means Merry Christmas.
Shimmering series lights, hanged star lanterns of different sizes, Christmas trees inside and outside the houses displayed until the next year, Poinsettia flowers used as floral displays, wreaths with different kinds of flower displays, socks for Santa's gifts hanged outside the doors.
These are just some of the things to expect on Christmas and even way before like a month before Christmas, everyone in the Philippines would be excited to decorate their houses and even the working places. It is totally different when it is Christmas in the country. But there's more to that than just decorations, let me share how Filipinos celebrate this season.
I have here listed just some of the things which will uniquely identify that you are celebrating Christmas in the Philippines. By the way, the Philippines is known to have the longest Christmas celebration in the entire world.
While every family may it be in the Philippines or from the other country, Christmas decors goes a long way of variety. There are simple kinds of decoration to the luxurious ones but there's one denominator to all of this - Christmas Spirit.
This is the traditional star lantern for the Filipinos. It is just literally a star with some tails on it. It is normally hanged in the windows and doors.
While some may find it hard to put up a single decoration from buying brand new ones, we all are able to find ways by getting recyclable stuffs to build a new ones. Plastic bottles to Christmas Trees.
Here are some videos on how to make these lanterns and decorations out from the recycled stuffs:
Indigenous materials are also common in the Philippines. From coconut husks, leaves, plant leaves, vines and everything that is possible to be made into a decoration, a Filipino citizen will always find ways.
But aside from that, other well off Filipino families find it good to also show off some of their best Christmas decorations so the rest of the community can see and experience the luxurious Christmas season.
There have been a lot of places and private houses which have also turned their decorations into a specific recreation and tourist park. Like some of these places below:
Here's a video coverage of the house in Mandaluyong:
But then again, whatever is the design, the decorations and fancy blingblings hanged on your walls or doors, always remember the true essence of this season.
As early as September which is the first month which name ends with a "ber", Christmas songs and carols can be heard from the neighboring towns and even on radio stations. Children starts to sing songs in the neighborhood and would knock on house doors to sing carols for the family and the household as a greeting for the holiday season but the caroling team will expect something in return too!
Caroling has been one of the activities which makes the Filipinos one of a kind. I personally don't know how that started and who had invented this specific activity but I together with my brothers and friends had been performing this since grade school.
I recall going home early after school so we can eat dinner early and our caroling session will start by the time dinner ends. With my childhood friends, we will be making our own DIY tambourine made of flattened cola can caps. These flat caps now will be banged into our hands so it will make a tambourine sound effect.
Then we will go from house to house to sing a Christmas song to the family and then we will be given a certain amount as a token for singing. It has been said that the house which had received carols from children and anyone else will be blessed. However, nowadays, there are already houses which don't welcome carols.
However, as a child before, I had definitely enjoyed each and every session. Until I reached high school, I had been really fond of joining caroling. Even in school, this has been one of the fund raising activities which we do. Most of the houses which we visit and sing carols are those who are owned by the persons from the government and from public personalities and even the fortunate ones who gives big amount of money.
But the token is not limited to only the money, there are some who are also giving out food and candies specially to children.
In the cities of the Philippines, the carolers had gone wild from only houses to also jeepneys and public vehicles. It is a bit dangerous as the kids tend to jump into the moving jeepneys but they are stubborn and would really do whatever it takes so they can get money from the passengers.
Parties are not just an important thing during Christmas, it also counts as one of the necessities during this season. Everyone experiences Christmas parties and get together.
From the school, to the community, to offices, to government works, public and private organizations, to group of friends, to the market vendors and to every family, Christmas party won't be missed for the Christmas season.
It starts as early as the first of December. Believe it or not but almost every week if not everyday in the month of December, Filipinos are joining parties from here and there. There are invitations from everywhere to join this party and then to another party. May it be a family gathering or invitation to friends of friends.
When I was a child, I would always look forward to joining my class Christmas parties every year. I have two Christmas parties to join to when I was a child, one from the school and another at church.
Then when I reached secondary school, the number of Christmas parties increased. I then have a party at school, another party at church, a party with our little neighborhood and a party get together of grade school friends.
Then when I stepped college, the number of parties increased. One at the university organization, church, grade school friends, secondary friends and the neighborhood. It was an enjoyable activity specially that it is also a way for us to catch up with friends and family.
No wonder why most of the Filipinos get fat when December comes. Desserts and good food come in the table for free! Every family prepares dishes and tasty stuffs.
Christmas is a time for giving. It is a season where almost everyone is feels like giving something. And Filipinos are also known for being givers ourselves.
This is also the time when Godparents are all pressured on what to give to their godchildren. When I was still a child, I remember receiving certain gifts from my godmother, clothes, shirts, pants, shoes and also money! I also had a godfather who always gives me a big amount every Christmas and that's what I always look forward to every year.
My grandmother would accompany me to my godparents' houses so I can greet them and they would give me something in return. It was a normal activity for Filipino children and I thought it was okay until I reached secondary school when I am already ashamed of going to their houses and felt like this is only being done by children and little kids.
Some ideas for Christmas gifts:
Came college and also had my own goddaughter, by that time, I realized it isn't really that great to be having a lot of godchildren because you'll become pressured by the number of gifts you'll prepare every Christmas. But nonetheless, it is a blessing to be a godparent.
Aside from that, I would also prepare something for my parents and my relatives. I would buy clothes, pants and shoes for them. My grandparent receives lots of chocolates from their friends abroad too!
Another great stuff is the exchange gifts. It is a really fun and exciting thing because one isn't really aware which gift will be his or her. It will be a random picking of gifts and you'll be lucky if you'll get a good gift.
The Noche Buena
Before December 25, on the eve of the 24th, Filipino families would always try to prepare something for the entire family. It is also a tradition wherein most of us would stay up so we can light up our Christmas lights, open gifts and presents, enjoy the food prepared for Christmas such as desserts and hams. This is actually the main event for Christmas and we always enjoy this time.
Ever since I was a child, we would always have something for Noche Buena even if that month is a hard one for the family, we would always have something in the table.
Here are the top foods available during Noche Buena:
It has been part of the Filipino traditions and I believe it will continue to be that way until the world ends.
Advance Merry Christmas everyone!