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Pasko sa Pinas

Christmas in the Philippines

by Yvanne Dandan

“Ibang-ibang talaga ang pasko sa Pinas.” –Yeng Constantino

What is Christmas? Christmas can mean various things to many people. For one thing, Christmas can mean the presents under the tree, Santa Claus, the Christmas dinner, mistletoe, being with family, and so much more. Christmas has a different meaning for everyone. It is a special occasion and everyone celebrates Christmas differently. For example, in the Philippines, Christmas is a joyous and much awaited part of the year. It’s the time where the family usually gets together.

For many Filipinos, Christmas is the most anticipated event throughout the whole year. Although the Philippines sees no snow during this time of the year, the Christmas joy is still spread around the whole country in several other ways. Even without the snow and pine trees, you can still tell that it is Christmas. Countless lights and decorations are placed everywhere you look, left to right, up and down. For example, there is the parol, a star lantern, which is an essential Philippine decoration, filled with colour and lights. It represents the guiding light; the star of Bethlehem.

Christmas in the Philippines is not only about the beautiful decorations, but as well as the traditions. Christmas in the Philippines is a mixture of Western and native Filipino traditions. For example, the typical Santa Claus, the Christmas tree and Christmas cards and singing Christmas carols are all inherited from cultures of the West. However, all of them have been adapted to fit the Filipino nature and personality. For example, in the Philippines, singing Christmas carols plays a big part of the Christmas occasion. Most kids actually go door to door during the Christmas season to sing for the people. They bring along with them handmade instruments or tambourines. Sometimes their audience gives them a reward for their singing.

Another very important tradition in the Philippines is the mass held in the churches right before midnight strikes. This mass is called simbang gabi or Misa de Gallo, which means midnight mass that is held every night of those nine days.

On Christmas Eve, right after simbang gabi, Noche Buena is held. This is the Christmas Eve dinner with family. This usually represents unity amongst the family members and relatives. It’s not the amount of food that matters; it’s being with the family that counts.

Christmas in the Philippines sounds like a really fun experience. I personally haven’t experienced it myself. I was born in the Philippines but immigrated here when I was still a baby. I have visited the Philippines here and there, but never during Christmas. My family always used to say, “Christmas in Canada, is nothing compared to Christmas in the Philippines!” It makes me want to fly to the Philippines to experience it myself! I really hope I’ll be able to experience Christmas in the Philippines, one day.

Some “must know” Philippine Christmas words:

  • Maligayang Pasko – Merry Christmas;
  • Aguinaldo – gifts, presents;
  • Parol – Christmas star lantern;
  • Simbang gabi – midnight mass;
  • Noche Buena – Christmas Eve dinner.

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