Before we go on to the list let me tell you how Christmas is celebrated in the Philippines first because it is awesome! Christmas there is hard to compare with other countries, you may say I am biased because I am a Filipino but I tried having Christmas in other countries as well and no one can come close to what my home country have to offer. If you like something quiet and peaceful, just read the food part of this post at the bottom as I will not be able to convince you because Christmas back home is the total opposite, chaos, traffic, lots of people but amidst of all that the happiness and the Christmas spririt is just everywhere.
My last Christmas there was more than 10 years ago and definitely it had changed a lot since then but one thing remains, the Christmas spirit on everyone. So what is it like there? I will give you some bullet point summary of the common things Filipinos do during this time of the year.
- Christmas starts early, in fact it starts on September! We call it “Ber” months pertaining to September, October, November and December, during this time you will see a lot of Christmas decoration in Malls, in streets and even in homes. People start putting up their Christmas trees as early as September. Christmas music is also everywhere.
- Christmas parties everywhere, from schools, to offices, organizations, and even within your friends. This is a big event for Filipinos where everyone eats and drinks a lot of festive dishes. During this event various performances and even parlour games are participated with everyone.
- Before the day of Christmas party there is also what we call “Monito/Monita” or “Kris Kringle“, a daily gift giving based on a theme i.e. “something long”, “something slimy”, “something brown”, etc. It is like a “Secret Santa” where someone gives a low cost gift on a specified period based on the theme, usually it lasts a week and ends with the big gift on the party itself.
- If America have trick or treats during Halloween, we have Christmas carolling. Every night from December 16 to 24 almost all kids aged 4 to teens go around villages and sing Christmas carols using homemade instruments in front of you door in exchange for money. I remember before just in one night I earned PHP 300.00 and that was a big amount of money during the early 90’s.
- Christmas decor competitions everywhere from Christmas Trees, Belen (Nativity Scene), Parol and even Christmas Lights in houses.
- Christmas entertainment everywhere, I remember during my days there was a mall in Cubao area located in Quezon City called COD which have a daily night show of mannequins performing Christmas themed plays outside the facade where kids and even parents watch. Now this was moved to Greenhills shopping centre to continue the well loved tradition.
- Theme Parks peak during this season and there are several to choose from just in the Metro Manila area like Star City, Ocean Adventure and Enchanted Kingdom. There are also once in a year theme parks that operate during this season but I am not sure if they still exists, one of the popular ones before was “Payanig sa Pasig”.
- Early morning between 3:00 AM to 5:00 AM depending on the church people go to a mass called “Simbang Gabi“. Again this starts from December 16 and ends on December 24 and practiced to honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary in anticipation of Christmas. Then just before the midnight of 24th a final mass is held to celebrate the Christmas Day, this mass is called “Misa de Gallo“.
- After this “Simbang Gabi” or “Misa de Gallo” everyone enjoys the most popular street food during this season, hot puto bungbong (purple sticky rice cooked in bamboo) and/or bibingka (a rice cake topped with salted duck eggs, margarine and cheese cooked on charcoal oven).
- During this time most if not all of the offices give Christmas Bonus apart from the 13th month pay to their employees, this usually equates to the same amount of salary you get monthly. So during December you monthly salary triples. Some offices do also have raffle draws for their employees to win something small like a grocery hamper up to something big like a car (yes one of the one I work with gave out a car for a raffle).
- Now since you are loaded with three month worth of salary, everyone shops for gifts and every weekend is a nightmare at shopping malls and all roads that lead to them. Filipinos love shopping (we have 3 of the 10 worlds most biggest malls) and even giving gifts to everyone they know, family members, extended families, friends, godchildren (Filipino’s tend to have a lot of this), officemates and even neighbours.
- Be ready to receive lots of gifts as well.
- Then the day before Christmas everyone is busy to prepare a feast not just for the family but for everyone who you might invite that midnight as well as the day after. This is the big day, the eve of December 24 where after mass at midnight everyone celebrates and have a Noche Buena party at home.
Now lets go on to the list and here are the most popular dishes prepared during that night.
- Filipino Style Barbecue – Sweet style pork barbecue cooked in charcoal
- Christmas Ham – This sweet ham dressed with pineapples are sliced and shared across sandwiched between a hot newly baked pandesal
- Relleno – Filipino stuffed fish or chicken
- Lengua Estofado – Ox tongue casserole cooked in creamy mushroom sauce. If you are not keen on ox tongue you can use beef tenderloin like the one on the photo.
- Lechon – Pork spit roast
Rice and Pasta
- Macaroni Salad – Macaroni pasta with chicken, raisins, carrots, cheese, pickles dressed in Mayonnaise
- Spaghetti – Filipino style Bolognese spaghetti
- Paella – Rice cooked with chicken or seafood.
- Bibingka – Rice cake topped with salted duck eggs, margarine and cheese cooked on charcoal oven
- Puto Bumbong – Purple sticky rice cooked in bamboo
- Leche flan – Filipino style crème caramel
- Ube Halaya – Sweetened purple yam cakes
- Cathedral Jelly – Colourful fruity jelly stuffed in creamy jelly
- Gulaman – Another type of jelly made out of agar
- Buko Salad – Coconut strips and mixed fruits in sweetened cream
- Roasted Chestnuts – Not made at home but usually bought in the streets.
- Keso de Bola – Round Edam balls covered with red wax, usually consumed with ham.
- Lots of San Miguel Beer
Regardless whether the family is rich or poor, everyone finds a way to put something in the table and invite everyone to partake this one a year feast.
How about you how do you celebrate Christmas? Share it below and before we end the day I would love to greet you all.