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Christmas Traditions in the Philippines

How do Filipinos celebrate Christmas?

How do Filipinos celebrate Christmas?

Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays all over the world. But in the Philippines, Christmas preparation starts as early as September, the month known as the start of the "ber" months.

Don't be surprised seeing decors as early as September as Philippines is known for celebrating Christmas the longest. But how do Filipinos celebrate this once in a year big holiday? Christmas is celebrated big time. Read on and prepare yourself to experience Filipino Christmas. Here's 10 ways Filipinos celebrate this most awaited season.

Lanterns of Different Designs and Sizes

Although all sorts of decorations start appearing once again, Christmas lanterns known as parol made from the simpliest design to the most intricate eye-catching electric ones adorn the streets, establishments, parks and houses. Materials used isn't a problem as anything can be made into an amazing Christmas lantern, challenging creative minds as often the best Christmas lantern gets the price when a contest for one is held giving an extra boost of fun. To experience one, a lantern festival is held every year in the province of Pampanga. The province displays an enticing giant lantern yearly luring both locals and tourists alike with its eye-catching display when lit. No wonder the province of Pampanga earned the title "Christmas Capital of the Philippines."


2. Monito Monita

A Christmas tradition of gift giving known as Monito Monita or Kris Kringle is done at schools and workplaces, lifting up the holiday spirit of both students and employees.

Monito Monita is done before the actual Christmas party exchange gift. How often this small gift giving should be done and the minimum amount to spend is agreed upon amongst participants. The thrill on Monito Monita gift giving is your Monito (if you've picked a male) or Monita (if you've picked a female) not knowing who his or her secret Santa is.

Monito Monita

Monito Monita

3. Christmas Carols and the Carolers

As both old time favorite Christmas carols and new ones makes their mark filling the air with joyous, hearth felt Christmas music, it is the season for carolers to make their rounds in the neighborhood. Caroling or karoling with its Filipinized spelling is a magical season specially for kids. With handmade instruments often tambourine from flattened bottle tops they would go house to house singing their choice of Christmas song. Have fun and get to the spirit of the holiday as this only happens once a year. And don't be too stingy and grumpy as the carolers can tease you by ending their song with "Thank you. Thank you. You're so stingy thank you." Kids can be kids and a tease. It happens once a year so just have fun with the season.

4. Stories of Inspiration and Hope

As carolers serenade and lanterns light up the streets and houses, stories of hope and inspiration also make their way into people's hearts through television programs and commercials. As one long time running and well-known true to life television program MMK (Maalaala Mo Kaya) airs some segments of real life stories specially for the holiday season to give inspiration and hope, excitement about the upcoming Christmas can be felt as well as news and other programs feature foods and ideas for the holidays. Add to it glimpses of different Christmas lanterns or parol on display through holiday commercials and station id's.

5. Greeting Cards

With the technology nowadays, few seconds of typing a Facebook message of a holiday greeting topped off with a cute sticker is a hip. No doubt about that specially with the millenials. Sending out greeting cards though still plays its part of Filipino Christmas tradition. It may not be as hip as it was like years ago due to social media making a greeting "instant" but nothing would beat receiving a Christmas card on a mailbox with a hand written message. Don't you agree?


6. Midnight Mass

Known as "Simbang Gabi," midnight mass is an important part of Filipino Christmas tradition being a Catholic dominated country. Simbang gabi is a 9 day mass starting on the 16th of December until Christmas day. And although "gabi" stands for evening, the mass is held at dawn. As the mass finished, the enticing smell of favorite Christmas delicacies often different kinds of rice cakes lures the crowd.

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7. Unending Parties

As with every occasion big or small, Filipinos love parties and the holiday season is no different. Christmas parties before Christmas day until New Year is unending.

8. Gift Giving

Exchange gift has been a part of Filipino Christmas tradition. After a sumptuous meal from noche buena, family and friends who's celebrating Christmas together gathers for exchange gift as they greet and wish one another a merry Christmas. The celebration continues with videoke, catching up and of course more food.


9. The Christmas Season Yummies

What's a holiday without food? As Christmas carol fills the air and holiday decors create a lively wonder land, favorite foods during this holiday season make their way as well to every Filipino kitchen with all the different kinds of rice cakes, puto and kutsinta (bite sized steamed white and often orange colored rice cake), suman (made from glutinous rice wrapped in palm or banana leaves). And of course pansit wouldn't missed any celebration which makes everyone look forward to noche buena.


10. Pamamasko

What's Christmas without paying your loved ones a visit and that nice but grumpy neighbor sometimes? Pamamasko is getting into the holiday spirit by celebrating Christmas day with loved ones and friends together, showing up at their doorstep. Greet them "Namamasko!" and you'll be let in with an abundance of holiday goodies waiting in the table. The perfect time to catch up, be jolly and just help them out with all the holiday foods.

Christmas day is something extra special for godchildren or every kid looking forward to paying their godparents a visit. With a delicious meal, each visit ends with gift giving with that toy every kid is wishing for or that cash hidden inside a greeting card. I sure would want to be a kid again.

Is there anything else I missed? Comment it below or share something interesting about your Filipino Christmas experienced.

Quiz time!

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Monito Monita is?
    • A guy and a girl that plays Santa couples.
    • A Christmas tradition of gift giving.
    • A song.
  2. Pampanga is known as --
    • Christmas capital of the Philippines.
    • Food haven.
    • The province that makes Christmas lanterns called parol.
  3. Christmas preparation starts as early as September. Is it true?
    • No. Too early.
    • To some who may want to prepare that early.
    • Yes it is true.
  4. Simbang gabi is known as?
    • A mass done before sunrise.
    • Evening mass.
    • Midnight mass.
  5. Parol is --
    • Filipino Christmas lantern.
    • Traditional Christmas food.
    • Filipino word for Christmas decoration.

Answer Key

  1. A Christmas tradition of gift giving.
  2. Christmas capital of the Philippines.
  3. Yes it is true.
  4. Midnight mass.
  5. Filipino Christmas lantern.


Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on December 03, 2017:

I enjoyed reading this interesting hub. I agree with you on the sending a real Christmas card. I find it more personal than using social media. Lovely photos.

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