On Christmas eve, family members partake of a sumptuous Filipino meal by twelve midnight, called noche buena. This usually comes after the entire family has attended a late evening mass or church service about an hour or so before midnight. The typical noche buena foods prepared on the table are: lechon, pancit, fried chicken, lumpia, rice, adobo, among others for the main course; desserts include halo-halo, rice cakes, ice cream, patries and cakes; drinks include soda, wine, beer, juice.
Noche buena is also an opportunity for family get together, opening of Christmas gifts, singing and story-telling. It is also a chance for kids to earn some money aside from toy gifts. In some homes, it is also one way to welcome the less-fortunate by inviting orphans or poor people to join in the Christmas celebration. Some carolers who raise funds for civic organizations are also welcomed and given donations (in cash or kind) into the home.
The noche buena could last until about four o'clock in the morning on Christmas day. The whole family will again attend mass or church service during the morning. When they go back home, the salu-salo (partaking of the meal) will continue. It is during Christmas day that some inaanak (godchildren) visit their ninong (godfather) and ninang (godmother). It is also the day for some families to hold grand reunions of extended family clan members (grandparents, grandchildren, cousins, uncles and aunts).
(chicken marinated and stewed
in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and corn peppers)
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Filipino Christmas celebration is colorful, lively, full of traditions, bright and definitely twinkling. One of the most iconic symbol of Filipino Christmas spirit is the Christmas lantern or locally known as “paról”. The star-shaped lanterns are displayed hanging outside the house, along the busy streets of the cities and even in provincial towns and small villages. May it be a parol with simple or intricate designs, for Filipinos it is an expression of shared faith and hope. It also symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness and Filipinos’ goodwill during Christmas season.
For Filipinos, parol making and hanging them outside is a representation of the star of Bethlehem that guided the Three Wise Men to the manger of the newly born Jesus Christ. The origin of paról can be traced back during the Spanish era in the Philippines, when the Spaniards brought Christianity to the islands. Parols were initially used to light the way to church to faithfully attend the 9-day Simbang Gabi or Misas de Aguinaldo, which begin on the 16th of December, a devotion for petition of special favors. After coming home from hearing the mass, instead of putting away the lantern somewhere else, people would hang it outside the house.
Paróls are star-shaped lanterns and traditionally made of bamboo, papél de japón (Japanese paper) and illuminated with candle or kalburo (carbide). As times goes by, the lantern evolved into more intricate, lavish and brightly lit Christmas ornament. Aside from the traditional design of parols, other materials are used such as capiz shells with elaborated lights became very popular as well. Adding to the meaning of parol, the lantern also demonstrates the craftsmanship of Filipinos. Many communities, such as villages, schools, and groups hold competitions to see who can make the best paról. In the province of Pampanga, an annual Giant Lantern Festival is held, which attracts various craftsmen from across the archipelago.
Yuletide season is definitely bright and twinkling in the Philippines, no wonder with the paról, it became the Festival of Lights. To appreciate and see the peak of the Festival of Lights in the Philippines, one must travel at night from December 16th up to January 6th. All kinds of paróls will make your holidays merrier and bright. Filipinos’ Christmas lantern, a tradition, an art and an iconic symbol of Christmas.
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