Most of us know how Christmas is celebrated around Europe – but our clients have recently been asking us how to celebrate Christmas with their lovely Filipino housekeepers, nannies and domestic staff.
Christmas in the Philippines
People in the Philippines like to celebrate Christmas for as long as possible! The playing of Christmas carols in shops can start in September! The countdown to Christmas, also known as the ‘Ber Months’, is one of the most important traditions that makes the Christmas season one of the world’s earliest and longest celebration of the Christmas Season.
Many people go the the first of nine pre-dawn or early morning masses and Christmas celebrations start on 16th December . The last mass is on Christmas day. The Christmas celebrations continue to the First Sunday in January when Epiphany or the Feast of the Three Kings is celebrated.
In the Philippines the early masses held before Christmas are called the ‘Misa de Gallo’ or ‘Simbang Gabi’ in Filipino.
Most Filipinos are Christians with about 80% of people being Catholics. It’s the only Asian country with so many Christians. Because of this, Christmas is the most important holiday in the Philippines.
Christmas customs in the Philippines are a mixture of western and native Filipino traditions. (Christianity became widely known in The Philippines in the 1500s when missionaries from countries like Portugal and Spain traveled to the area.) So people in the Philippines have Santa Claus (or ‘Santa Klaus’), Christmas trees, Christmas cards and Christmas carols from western countries!
They also have their own Christmas traditions such as the ‘parol’ which is a bamboo pole or frame with a lighted star lantern on it. It’s traditionally made from bamboo strips and colored Japanese paper or cellophane paper and represents the star that guided the Wise Men. It is the most popular Christmas decoration in the Philippines.
Noche Buena – the Filipino Christmas Feast!
Christmas Eve is very important in the Philippines. Many people stay awake all night into Christmas day! During Christmas Eve evening, Christians go to church to hear the last ‘simbang gabi’ or the Christmas Eve mass. This is followed by a midnight feast, called Noche Buena.
The Noche Buena is a big, open house, celebration with family, friends and neighbours dropping in to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!
Some of the most popular dishes eaten at Christmas include:-
Christmas hams are encrusted in either a brown sugar crumble, or blanketed with a syrupy glaze. It’s usually eaten on its own, fried to add some flavor, or enjoyed with bread and kesong puti (goat’s cheese).
Keso de Bola
Keso de Bola is the localized name for Edam cheese, which is from the Netherlands. It was first brought to the Philippines by a Swedish doctor who immigrated to the country!
This is a deep purple, seasonal rice cake made from galapong or sticky rice. The flour mixture is placed in a tube of bamboo or bumbong and cooked through steam. It is then served with margarine, sugar, and sesame seeds.
This yellow-colored noodle dish flavored with annatto seeds is quite festive in appearance, and exceptionally tasty in flavor. Loaded with eggs, shrimp, and chicharon, Pancit Malabon never fails to satisfy even the hungriest of appetites!
The star of every Christmas table, this roasted pig with crunchy, oily skin will win the hearts of everyone at dinner.
Though pandan leaves are widely used in savory dishes, this dessert uses pandan-flavored gelatin that’s mixed with coconut and cream. The result is this festive green-and-white treat that’s often enjoyed during the holidays.
How to Say ‘Happy Christmas’
The Philippines has eight major languages, here’s how to say Merry Christmas in some of them! In Tagalog, Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Maligayang Pasko’; in Ilonggo it’s ‘Malipayon nga Pascua’; in Sugbuhanon or Cebuano it’s ‘Maayong Pasko’; in Bicolano they say ‘Maugmang Pasko’ in Pangalatok or Pangasinense they say ‘Maabig ya pasko’ or ‘Magayagan inkianac’; and in Warey Warey you say ‘Maupay Nga Pasko’.