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Christmastime in the Philippines

Filipinos know how to party, oh yes. And the most celebrated, most awaited holidays are Christmas and New Year’s. The locals don’t really make preparations for Halloween and Thanksgiving, so people start festivities as early as September. By the first day of the -ber months, Christmas songs are playing on the radio. People start buying their Christmas gifts (if they haven’t finished already). Here are a few trademarks of the Pinoy Christmas:

Parol: Native Christmas Ornament

The parol is the classic symbol of Pasko (Christmas). It’s basically a five-point star, hung with tails or tassels sprouting from the bottom two points. Materials used in making this range from thin wooden sticks and colorful paper, to steel frames with shell or glass with matching electronic lights. Aside from this common ornament, most Filipinos decorate their homes and workplaces to show their holiday spirit.

Belen: Tableau of the Nativity Scene

Catholicism is still the dominant religion in the Philippines, although a lot of strong challengers are around. For Catholics, Christmas is not complete without the belen, depicting the scene of Jesus Christ’s birth. Everything is there; the manger and infant Jesus, Mary, Joseph, three kings and their donkeys, shepherds, and barn animals topped with an angel and a four-point star. Some churches even hold a small celebration for placing the infant in the manger during the Christmas Eve mass.

Puto Bumbong: Native Rice Dessert

Hands down, this is my favorite kakanin or type of rice cake. Topped with shaved coconut, brown sugar and lots of butter, this purple rice cake is best enjoyed piping hot. It’s traditionally enjoyed as a treat after hearing dawn masses (read more below), but you can have it any time you want.

Simbang Gabi: Dawn Masses

It’s considered good luck to be able to hear the dawn masses nine times in a row for the nine days before Christmas. Doing this also qualifies you to make a free wish! Most people come with their family and friends (or at least those who manage to wake up at 3 or 4 AM). The atmosphere is very Christmassy and happy.

If you want to have a unique holiday experience, listen to the best Philippines travel tips and head on over to any of the country’s 7,107 islands. Make sure to grab your Philippines travel information to make the most of the holiday season.