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6 Reasons Christmas In The Philippines Is Truly Unique
PHOTO BY @yaymarcampo, @stefanni_md/Instagram
  • Christmas celebrations in the Philippines are renowned to be exceptional. From generation to generation, Filipinos have really taken to heart the essence of this celebration, as traditions liven up the season.

    What is it about Pinoys that makes Christmas in the Philippines like nothing else? Here are some of them.

    Longest Christmas celebration

    Expect decorations to be up on the first day of the "-ber" months (September). Homes and establishments display lanterns, lights, and other brightly-colored Christmas trinkets. Of course, Filipinos being musical, Christmas carols will fill the air, the classic voice of Jose Marie Chan serenading everyone in the malls and over the radio.

    Similarly, the celebration does not end on the 25th of December — it extends until January! The Yuletide season officially ends on the feast of the Three Kings or the Feast of Epiphany which is celebrated on the first Sunday of January. Only then are Christmas decors stowed away for safekeeping. 

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    Misa de Gallo

    The Simbang Gabi is the devotional dawn masses held for 9 days starting on December 16. It is an influence from the Spanish friars who introduced the masses to the Filipino farmers to allow them to hear the sacred word before going to the fields. Simbang Gabi is also a spiritual preparation for Christmas and a celebration of the forthcoming birth of Jesus Christ. Most people believe that wishes are granted if one completes all 9 days of the novena. 

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    The Simbang Gabi wouldn't be complete without enjoying native delicacies like the puto bumbong and bibingka paired with ginger tea (salabat) or Spanish-style hot chocolate, just perfect to counter the cold breeze during Yuletide season.

    Panunuluyan

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    This traditional reenactment of Joseph and Mary’s search for a place to give birth to Jesus usually happens on Christmas Eve. Wearing their costumes, the actors would walk around the neighborhood, accompanied by singers and a brass band. As they do the procession, they would sing the pleas of Joseph and Mary and would knock on every house. The homeowners will do their part and will reject the pleas. Once they reach the last house, they would walk back to the church where a stable has been built. The birth of Jesus is then announced in the church with a resounding ringing of the church bells.

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    Noche Buena

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    Every Filipino family looks forward to the festive Christmas Eve dinner. Among Pinoys, Noche Buena staples include the hamon, menudo, morcon, and ube halaya. And what’s more exciting than celebrating the cold season with the warm hugs and smiles from your family? Christmas is not only a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ but also marks close family ties.  

    Christmas Caroling

    Part of the Christmas experience for kids is knocking on houses and singing Christmas carols with makeshift musical instuments as accompaniment (think tambourines made with flattened soda bottle caps, drums out of milk tin cans). In exchange, homeowners would give them monetary rewards. Modern caroling includes dance numbers and are sometimes done by organizations who do charitable work. 

    Monito Monita

    Christmas season is all about sharing! Exchanging gifts is one of the highlights of the season, and Monito Monita is an adaptation of "Secret Santa." Presents are wrapped in colorful paper and are given anonymously, thus adding excitement to the gift-giving tradition. This is usually done during Christmas parties in school, offices and even in family reunions. 

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    Filipinos are naturally fun-loving people, and don't miss out on celebrating occasions in an extravagant manner. But, no matter how big or grand the celebration is, may we not forget the real essence of the season. May our hearts be filled with love, peace, and humility as we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.

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