Have you watched Panunuluyan in town churches? If you haven’t or even don’t know what it is, you are not alone. Panunuluyan is the reenactment of the Biblical narrative when Joseph and Mary went from house to house to seek refuge. This is just one of the many vibrant traditions that Filipinos observe during Christmas season.
Here are the Top 10 Filipino Christmas traditions. Find out if you’re still practicing any of these.
1. Christmas Starts in September
Christmas seasons starts when the cold Northeasterly wind (Hanging Amihan) arrives in September. It marks the start of decorating the home, office, school, plaza and all places with lanterns and twinkling lights. The start of Christmas celebration in September is also when most Filipinos would frequent night bazaars (tiangge) and funfairs (perya).
Parol makes the Filipino Christmas a colorful and vibrant celebration. This star-shaped lantern is made of Native filipino materials e.g bamboo sticks and capiz shells. In the nativity scene, the Star guided the three Kings to the manger. In the past, Parol lanterns used to light the way to church during Misa de Gallo at dawn. And nowadays it can be seen almost everywhere: from busy streets to quiet homes.
3. Display Belen or The Nativity Scene
A Belen or the Nativity Scene depicts infant Jesus in the manger with Mary, Joseph and the Three Kings. It is a staple decoration for every Catholic in the country, and many Filipinos have this in their homes. It is a form of alternative to Panunuluyan since not everyone are privileged to star the play.
4. Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo
We believe that when we complete the 9 straight days of simbang gabi, God will grant our prayers. Misa de Gallo starts on December 16 and ends on the 24th. Before, masses were celebrated at dawn, before the roosters crow at sunrise, thus named Misa de Gallo (Rooster's Mass). However, nowadays masses became available at night, hence named Simbang Gabi.
5. Puto bumbong at Bibingka
There are certain Filipino delicacies that are uniquely served only during Christmas season such as Puto Bumbong and Bibingka. Stalls selling these all-time favorite kakanin pop around churches when the Simbang Gabi starts.
6. Caroling at Night
Have you ever tried caroling? The start of Simbang Gabi on the 16th of December also marks the time when groups of Filipino youth would sing Christmas carols from one house to another. They play improvised musical instruments such as percussions made of milk can and tambourine made out of tanzan (tin lid) as they sing traditional Filipino Christmas songs.
7. Giving Away Aguinaldo
One unchanging Filipino Christmas tradition is gifting one another on Christmas day. We call it Aguinaldo, Spanish term for "gift". And with the belief that Christmas celebration is centered around Children, they receive the most number of presents from every member of the family.
8. Monito, Monita
Another way of sharing joy with friends and family is Monito, Monita where each person is expected to give and receive a series of gifts weeks before Christmas. It begins with small gifts and as weeks go by the gift gets bigger until Christmas time when everyone is expected to grant their Monito/a's wish.
9. Noche Buena
This is the centerpiece of every Filipino Christmas celebration. Noche Buena is a grand family dinner usually served at midnight or right after the midnight mass of the 24th. This is one of the most favourite family tradition among Filipinos.
10. Media Noche
As Christmas Celebration does not end after December 25, Filipinos again prepare a grand feast to welcome the turn of the year. It is a grand celebration in the New Year’s Eve. When the countdown to January 1 ends, everyone celebrates with beautiful fireworks and lots of food at the dining table.
Do you still practice these ten Filipino Christmas traditions? Share with us your best Christmas celebration by commenting below.
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