Life at UCB through the eyes of our international student bloggers

6 Filipino Christmas Traditions

6 Filipino Christmas Traditions

Oh, December…

It finally means spending cosy nights by the inglenook, hot cocoa with marshmallows, Christmas trees and their pretty lights, spending time with family, friends and the ones you love dearly. Or it could also mean binge-watching classics such as Home Alone, or wallowing under the blankets as Taylor Swift blasts in the background. But for some, it just means Christmas is finally here. 

In today’s blog, I thought, to honour the first day of the Christmas month, I’d share with you some of the Filipino Christmas traditions that we practise! 

  1. The ‘-ber’ months 

If you weren’t aware, the Philippines celebrates the longest Christmas season in the world. We start Christmas in September, so you’d see Christmas decorations in malls and city halls, parols by the street and neighbours singing Christmas carols by the gates. The newsreaders even start the countdown by then, hence why it’s called the ‘-ber’ months. September, October, November and finally, December. 

There are no textbook explanations as to why Filipinos celebrate Christmas this early, but there were some theories. Some say it must be because of our predominantly Christian beliefs, but then again, the advent starts in December.

  1. Belen

In most countries, it’s called a nativity scene – also known as Belen – and they are usually seen in churches and religious spaces. However, in the Philippines, these can be seen everywhere. I promise you that in every Filipino household that you walk into, you’d see one of these. Whether it’s made of the original porcelain or recycled materials, you’ll see these in schools, building lobbies and homes. 

Some towns even host competitions for the best Belen. 

  1. Simbang Gabi 

Simbang Gabi translates to ‘night mass.’ This is when Filipinos attend mass either late at night or in the earliest hours of the morning for all nine days leading up to Christmas. It is a religious practice to complete all nine days. But for some people, it is believed that completing it will grant them a wish. 

  1. Carolling 

For most countries, carolling means a good vocal production and neatly assembled instruments, but in the Philippines, it’s considered a humorous affair.  Filipinos go from house to house and sing Christmas carols. Lyric books and Christmas costumes are ditched for recycled instruments and made-up lyrics. From the a-brim-bram-brooms to jinggom bells, once you hear carolling outside your porch, it’s a sign that Christmas is coming. 

  1. Misa de Gallo

Misa de Gallo is the first mass after the nine days of Simbang Gabi. As mentioned earlier, some people believe that once you complete the nine days of mass, you can make a wish during the Misa de Gallo mass. 

Sunday masses are a routine for Filipinos, but Misa de Gallo differs. Of course, everything is special during Christmas. During Misa de Gallo, church-goers would light candles, there would be projector displays and sometimes they would re-enact the birth of Jesus. 

  1. Noche Buena 

Noche Buena is a lavish feast that occurs at midnight to welcome Christmas Day, with a table filled with your typical lechon, queso de bola, hamon, spaghetti and fruit salad. Sometimes, some Filipinos eat their Christmas dinner either on Christmas Eve or on Christmas night, but oftentimes, it’s at midnight. 

That’s all for today and I hope you enjoyed it and have gained insight into what Filipino Christmas typically is like. See you next Wednesday! 

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