Non c’e’ la neve nelle Filippine a Natale, non ci sono abeti. Ma è la festa più partecipata e più sentita dell’anno. Le Filippine sono il Paese asiatico dove il Natale è maggiormente atteso. La nostra Len, in Profumi d’Oriente, ci spiega tradizioni e usanze a Manila e non solo.
Christmas in the Philippine
Christmas here in the Philippines is a time for families. It is a time of gift giving and a time for warm friendships during the Christmas season.
Christmas is a big holiday for us. It’s so huge almost every Filipino really go out of their way and take time to prepare for this annual occasion.
Filipinos are proud to proclaim their Christmas celebration to be the longest and merriest in the world. It begins formally on December 16 with attendance at the first of nine pre-dawn or early morning masses and continues on nonstop until the first Sunday of January, Feast of the Three Kings, the official end of the season.
The Philippines is the only Asian country where Christians predominate. Majority of its people are Roman Catholic. Christmas, therefore, is an extremely important and revered holiday for most Filipinos. It is a time for family, for sharing, for giving, and a time for food, fun, and friendship.
To most Filipinos, Christmas is the most anticipated fiesta of the year and is celebrated accordingly. The splendid climate of this tropical island nation, the abundance and beauty of its flowers, and lovely landscape, its multitude of culinary delights, and above all its warm-hearted people with their true devotion to family and faith all contribute to a holiday celebrated in the true Philippines fiesta tradition.
There is no winter or snow in the Philippines at Christmas time. There are very few pine trees. There is no traditional Yule log or fetching of the pine sprigs from the woods. And Santa Claus, though visible in displays and believed by most Filipino children to exist, seldom comes bearing gifts.
Even without snow or pine trees, there’s no doubt it’s Christmas in the Philippines. Filipino Christmas decorations are abundant and beautiful.
The bamboo parol (pah-role), or star lantern, is the symbol of Christmas in the Philippines, representing the guiding light, the star of Bethlehem. It emits a warmth unparalleled among holiday adornments and is unique to the Philippines.
Filipinos enjoy decorating their homes not only with star lanterns but also with all sorts of Christmas decors. Brightly colored buntings or streamers are hung inside and out. Often, Christmas cards that illustrate scenes in the Philippines are pinned on red and green ribbons. The cards are then hung in the sala, or living room, for all to enjoy. Candles and wreaths are also common adornments. Recently, Filipinos have begun choosing wreaths and other decorations made with local native materials rather than those patterned after western designs. And many houses, particularly those in the urban areas are strung with tiny multi-colored lights both inside and out. Most Filipinos think that decorating their homes for the Christmas holidays is a must.
Christmas in the Philippines is a mixture of Western and native Filipino traditions. Santa Claus, the Christmas tree, sending Christmas cards, and singing carols have all been inherited from the cultures of the West. However, these have all been adapted to fit the nature and personality of the Filipino people.
Christmas Eve in the Philippines is one of the traditions most families celebrate. It is a night without sleep and a continuous celebration moving right into Christmas Day. As December 24th dawns, the last Mass of Simbang Gabi is attended; then preparation begins for Noche Buena, which is a family feast that takes place after midnight.
The Noche Buena is very much like an open house celebration. Family, friends, relatives, and neighbors drop by to wish every family member “Maligayang Pasko” (Merry Christmas). Food is in abundance, often served in buffet style. Guests or visitors partake of the food prepared by the host family (even though they are already full or bloated!). Among the typical foods prepared in the Philippines during Christmas are: lechon (roasted pig), pancit, barbecue, rice, adobo, cakes (Western and native rice cakes), lumpia, etc. There is also an abundance of San Miguel beer, wine, and liquor, which makes the celebration of Christmas indeed intoxicating!
The streets are well lit and are full of activities. The children run in and out of the house to play, to eat, and to play again. The Christmas Eve gathering provides an opportunity for a reunion of immediate and distant family members. Some families may choose to exchange gifts at this time; others wait until Christmas day.
In general, the center of a family’s Christmas gathering is always the lola, the endearing term used for a family matriarch or grandmother, who is deeply respected, highly revered, and always present. Filipinos remember how their lola had their children form a line and step up to receive a small gift of some coins. The older the child, the more coins he or she receives.
Some families have a talent show during Christmas Eve celebration. Children are asked to perform. One might sing a Christmas song, others might play a musical instrument, or others may recite a poem or do a dance. The celebration continues until about 6 o’clock in the morning. Those who cannot attend Mass the night before will go to the morning Mass on Christmas day.
Christmas day is a popular day for children to visit their uncles, aunts, godmothers, and godfathers. At each home they are presented with a gift, usually candy, money, or a small toy. Food and drinks are also offered at each stop. It is a day of family closeness, and everyone wishes good cheer and glad tidings.
It’s more fun in the Philippines.