5 Philippine Christmas Traditions

A truly Filipino Christmas is never complete without these five traditions!

By Mathew S. Chan
December 09, 2014

The Philippines has the longest running celebration of Christmas, starting as early as September, the first ‘ber’ month of the year, and ending on the first Sunday of January the next year. Of course, most of the festivities happen in December. Everyone has their own way of celebrating, but below are a list of 5 essential traditions that are common to almost every Filipino family.

1.    Christmas Party Extravaganza

Filipinos love to party. Filipinos love Christmas. Put these two together, and you get nonstop Christmas parties till the end of the season. It’s almost impossible to only have a single Christmas party planned. You’ve most likely been invited to several as well, whether it’s for your office, your gym, your neighbors, or your friends. And like any polite Filipino, you’ve probably attended most of them—and it’s not just for the free food although it’s a definite plus.

2.    Simbang Gabi
One quintessential tradition during the holiday season is attending Simbang Gabi, completing all nine night masses leading to Christmas. On Christmas Eve, the last mass is called Misa de Gallo. Churches are packed with people who go with whoever is available because of the belief that you may make a wish and have it granted if you finish all nine masses. Christmas goodies like puto bumbong and bibingka are sold around the churches too, bringing out the festive atmosphere.

3.    Noche Buena
Noche Buena is the term given to the grand feast of food served on Christmas Eve. Family and friends gather to enjoy the food and hang out with good company. It is a wonderful celebration often capped off with gift giving. Everyone makes sure to have at least one thing special to serve on Noche Buena. Among favorites are lechon, hamon, and queso de bola.

4.    Caroling
Filipinos are known for being great singers, so it comes as no surprise that caroling is a must-do during the holidays. It’s the one time of the year when singers and aspiring singers are able to sing their hearts out, spreading some Christmas cheer with holiday tunes. There is no place you can go without hearing carolers belting out familiar tunes, and after a while, you can’t help but smile and sing along.

5.    Three Kings (Feast of the Epiphany)

Though this may seem more of a dying tradition, the Christmas season officially ends after the Epiphany, which is celebrated on the first Sunday after New Year’s Day. This is probably the closest thing we have to a local version of Santa Claus. Kids are encouraged to place their shoes near windows so that the three kings can pass by and leave gifts in them. 

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