It’s that time of the year where the breeze gets chiller every day and the time where you see Christmas decors being put up. Our last chance to make 2018 count and to also mentally prepare ourselves to welcome the new year.
I want you guys to get a glimpse of how we celebrate Christmas holidays back in the Philippines. Coming from a country that has the longest Christmas celebration, this itself is a proof of how this specific holiday is very important for us. The celebration doesn’t stop even after new year’s as everyone is still trying to recover from the holidays’ hangover.
Some of you curious folks must be wondering why do we celebrate that long? The Filipino Christmas celebration starts from the beginning of the -ber months (September until December). It’s that one time in a year where everyone gathers on Christmas Eve, preparing their “Noche Buena” whilst waiting for the clock to strike 12 to begin eating and opening the Christmas gifts.
Unfortunately, it has been 4 years since I last celebrated a Filipino Christmas. Do I miss it? Of course, I do but having lived outside of my home country gave me a chance to create my own traditions of celebrating Christmas and to also witness how other cultures celebrate this season.
Thailand, my current home, is a country that does not celebrate Christmas as grandly as we do back home and I have learned to celebrate Christmas in a simpler way. No presence of big Noche Buenas like they do back home, just a simple celebration with the people that I hold dear. However, a lot of Christmas decorations are being put around Bangkok these past few years and Thais have recently accepted and started celebrating Christmas like how the rest of the world do.
Seeing Christmas trees bring a smile to my face
Having lived outside of the Philippines for years, there are tons of things that I miss about this special occasion. As Christmas draws closer, you will hear carolers going to every house and singing Christmas songs in exchange for some “pamasko” which is money given to the carolers.
We also have this “Simbang Gabi” (literally meaning “Night Mass”), a Filipino Christmas tradition where you attend a series of masses that will last for 9 days. It begins from the 16th until the midnight of 24th of December. Masses can start as early as 4 AM and after each mass, some Christmas delicacies await the churchgoers outside. I will be talking more about these delicacies, Puto Bumbong and Bibingka, in a bit.
Another thing that I miss is seeing Christmas decors around you. When the roads start to fill with Christmas lights and you will notice Christmas Trees being put up in public places or even at home. People will also start hanging their “parols” out on display. (This is our version of Christmas Lantern.)
Image Credits: FB Page of Liga ng mga Photographers Worldwide
Our own lanterns called “Parols” which varies in design and sizes.
Just to tell you how we take Christmas seasons seriously and if you happen to be in the Philippines during December, bear in mind that you will attend tons of Christmas parties during this month which are filled with foods and exchanging gifts. So, dieting is not a good idea during this month.
I also miss the foods that are available during Christmas season such as Puto Bumbong, Bibingka and the star of the Noche Buena, the “Hamon”. This is just another excuse for us Filipinos to eat to our heart’s content.
Image Credits: https://www.angsarap.net/2017/12/15/puto-bumbong/
Puto Bumbong is a purple rice cake which is cooked by steaming the mixture through a bamboo tube. This is topped with butter or margarine, grated coconuts and muscovado sugar.
Image Credits: https://salu-salo.com/bibingka-sweet-rice-cake/
This is Bibingka which is a sweet rice cake cooked in a claypot with banana leaves and topped with grated coconuts.
The main star of everyone’s Noche Buena, the “Hamon”.
There you have it, a glimpse of how Filipinos celebrate Christmas. This season is really just all about having a good time and spending it with the people that are important in your life. It is the season of giving.
I am fortunate enough to have experienced Christmas celebrations in 2 other countries, Thailand and Cambodia, and this gave me another perspective on how Christmas celebrations are done elsewhere.
How do you guys celebrate Christmas? Do you also have a big feast like we do back home?