Skip to main content

How to Celebrate Christmas in the Philippines

Angelica is proud of their Filipino roots and wants to share their culture with readers.

Lake Labasin decorated with this beautiful Christmas tree made out of parols.

Lake Labasin decorated with this beautiful Christmas tree made out of parols.

How is Christmas Celebrated in the Philippines?

Did you know that the Philippines has the longest Christmas celebration in the entire world?

The Philippines has very deep Catholicism roots that they inherited from the Spanish Colonizers. From the early years of 1521 until 1898, Spain’s influence and culture were scattered all around the islands of the country. One of them is the Christmas celebration, which until today is religiously practiced.

Filipinos are commonly known as positive, hospitable, resilient, and fun people. One of the many reasons why they love to celebrate Christmas is because gathering with family and loved ones helps them forget some of the hardships that come with life.

For example, Filipinos have to endure an average of 16–20 typhoons each year. Throughout these natural disasters, a lot of people lose their homes, lose their sources of income, and even lose their families. Even with just a simple Christmas party or gathering, it's one of those moments where people have fun, laugh, dance, and sing while celebrating the love, joy, and peace that the season spreads.

Here are some of the Filipino Christmas traditions that may pique your interest to experience the world's longest and most unique Christmas season.

What Is Ber Months?

Ber Months simply means September, October, November, and December. Filipinos actually start preparing for the Christmas season in September, which may seem odd since Halloween hasn't even happened yet.

Most people set up their Christmas trees even in September.

There are many things to prepare for Christmas in the Philippines, which is why they start planning ahead of time.

This includes:

  • Exchanging gifts
  • Gift giving to your godchildren (God knows how many of them you have)
  • Christmas parties for any social group or family you belong to
  • Preparing the menu for Noche Buena
  • Your dresses for the dawn masses
  • Printed shirts for the family reunions
  • Games and prizes
  • Decorations
  • Firecrackers
  • More!
Filipino Lanterns known as Parol

Filipino Lanterns known as Parol

Pinoy Decorations

One unique decoration you’ll only see in the Philippines is the “Parol.” A Parol is an ornamental lantern originally made from bamboo and Japanese paper lit by candles, oil lamps, or carbide lamps.

Parols were made to light up the streets all the way to churches during the nine-day Christmas midnight mass. Modern parols are slightly different from the original because now we use electricity to light them up and materials like metal and plastic.

Belen is another traditional Filipino symbol that shows the nativity scene or the birth of baby Jesus in a shed with the Virgin Mary, St.Joseph, the barn animals, and a star or an angel.

However, don't worry; you'll also find Christmas trees, cards, lights, and Santa Claus in the Philippines.

Misa De Gallo

In the Philippines, a series of nine-day masses starts on the 16th of December and ends on the night of the 24th.

The masses from the 16th to the 23rd are held at dawn right before people get ready for work. Then on the 24th, the last mass is usually done at 10 o’clock and ends at exactly 12, which marks the official Christmas celebration.

After the mass, everybody greets each other a Merry Christmas, and fireworks light up the night sky while families slowly return to their houses to celebrate.

Lots of goodies will be found outside the churches, like puto bumbong (purple rice cake steamed in bamboo tubes), bibingka (rice cake with salted egg), cassava cake, and lugaw (porridge).

Aguinaldo

Derived from the Spanish word “Aguinaldo,” which means Christmas bonus, Aguinaldo is the tradition of asking/receiving gifts from one house to the other. This is traditionally done with relatives, loved ones, ninangs (godmothers), and ninongs (godfathers).

Whether it’ll be a red envelope with money or gift-wrapped presents, this is definitely something that people look forward to, especially the kids!

Monito/Monita

It is basically the Philippine version of secret Santa. Everyone involved in this Christmas gift-exchange tradition will have to write their names on a piece of paper then each one will pick their monito or monita (monito for the lads and monita for the ladies.)

What’s really interesting about this, though, is that it varies how you do it. Depending on the people involved, some love to do this daily with themes, usually with cheap gifts. Others do it with funny gifts, others do it with a price limit, and some with really useful gifts.

kids caroling

kids caroling

Caroling

As much as Filipinos love Christmas, they love singing too.

As early as November, you will start to hear kids singing carols from house to house in exchange for little gifts like money or candies.

Globally known Christmas hits like “Jingle bells” and “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” as well as Tagalog hits like “Ang Pasko ay Sumapit,” and “Kumukutikutitap,” are some of the songs usually sung by Filipinos.

Gatherings and Events During the Philippines’ Christmas Season

During the Philippines’ Christmas season, parties and gatherings are everywhere. Every group circle has a party from Christmas dance and singing contests to movie festivals, Christmas parties at school, workplace, relatives and families, and neighbors!

If you're not in one, it just means you do not have family or friends, which is impossible if you're Filipino.

Noche Buena

This is the highlight of Christmas celebrations in the Philippines; Noche Buena translates to “good evening”.

The evening mass on the 24th usually ends at precisely midnight, which officially means it's Christmas. Coming back to their homes, Filipinos will gather with all their families and neighbors for an open house party until morning!

What makes this party really special is that members of the family who work overseas usually come home at this time of the season.

They love to dance, sing karaoke, drink, and of course, eat lots of traditional Filipino dishes. Lechon (roasted whole pig), Pinoy spaghetti, fruit salad, Lumpiang Shanghai (spring rolls), and ham are some commonly served dishes in Noche Buena.

Have Yourself a Filipino Christmas!

I think it is safe to say that a Filipino Christmas is unlike any other Christmas Traditions that countries from all over the world have.

We have learned from the Filipinos that it is not the expensive gift that we receive that makes Christmas, the scrumptious dishes served, or the extravagant outfits we wear. The time well spent with the family and loved ones while having fun made our Christmas a Merry one!

© 2022 Angelica Elayzza Jean Abaquita