Christmas in the Philippines—a long holiday to renew faith and show gratitude

Christmas in the Philippines—a long holiday to renew faith and show gratitude

The Philippines is known to the world to have the longest Christmas season, starting officially on December 16 and extending to the New Year holiday.

For Antonio I. Basilio, the representative of Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taiwan, Christmas has always remained the same—a happy time and a time when his faith in God and beliefs are renewed. The fact that we are about to end the first decade of the 21st century does not change the reasons we celebrate Christmas, Basilio said.

“The reasons for celebrating Christmas is far more than celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ,” he said, “in fact, without there being any reason, it’s just a way of showing appreciation.”

As the majority of the Philippine people are Catholic, Basilio said that from as early as October, radios start broadcasting Christmas songs and carols, and one can already feel the Christmas festive spirit in the air by the beginning of December, with streets, shops, and homes decorated with elaborate Christmas symbols. There are also big parades with people bearing brightly lit lanterns in the shape of stars, creating a spectacular scene on the street. Nowadays children still go around the neighborhood singing Christmas carols, and grown-ups will play instruments to celebrate the special holiday.

According to Basilio, for Filipinos, on Christmas Eve there is the “Noche Buena”—the traditional midnight meal where families gather together to partake of a feast which includes queso de bola, (Spanish: “ball of cheese”), Tsokulate (a hot chocolate drink) and jamon (Christmas ham). Some open presents at this time.

On Christmas day, Christmas mass is celebrated in the morning and afterwards, Filipino families visit members of their extended families, and there is the custom of showing respect by touching one’s forehead to an elder’s hand saying “Mano Po.” The elder then blesses the person who paid the respect, and gives money in the form of crisp, fresh-from-the-bank bills to the younger children, a practice similar to Chinese people giving red enveloeps to young people on Lunar New Year’s Eve.

For Basilio, one of the most unforgettable Christmas celebrations happened five years ago when all of his brothers and sisters, who all work overseas, returned to the Philippines and shared the joy of Christmas together with their parents.



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