Culture & Heritage

It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas …

Written by Cecille

It’s December 1 and now just 25 days from Christmas Day.

You might have already begun to experience signs of Christmas in the malls and other places you frequent in the Philippines for the past month or so and it really is beginning to look and feel a lot more like Christmas!

Because of the Philippines’ tropical climate, it does not experience snow.  Most Filipinos have never experienced snow, more so white Christmas, except to see it in photos and movies.

The Christmas season in the Philippines is quite different from other parts of the world. 

In this article, we answer the most common questions regarding Christmas in the Philippines.

Why does Christmas in the Philippines start in September?

Christmas season begins in September – the start of so-called ‘BER months’, and ends the first week of January, making it the longest Christmas season in the world.  Some probably think that the long celebration is due to most Filipinos being Catholic and follows the Liturgical Calendar which calls for the Advent season beginning four Sundays before Christmas day which is around the last week of November or early December.  While it is cited as one of the possible reasons, sociologist Bro. Clifford Sorita believes it is the psychological framework to count down the days to big celebrations.  100 days until Christmas starts on September 16,  but Filipinos like to celebrate early hence the September 1st kick off.

Why Filipino celebrate Christmas early?

Filipinos begin celebrating Christmas early because it gives the brains time to think ahead and allocate time to complete various tasks such as buying gifts, putting up Christmas decorations, and planning for Christmas parties before Christmas Day.  It’s also the season to make up lost time with family and friends – something Filipinos truly value.

What makes Christmas in the Philippines unique?

The following are few things that make Christmas unique in the Philippines:

  • Family and love at the core of Pinoy Christmas – Filipino Christmas is being with family and loved ones be it doing various Christmas traditions or simply enjoying each other’s presence.
  • Keeping the tradition alive away from ‘home’ – Many Filipinos leave the country to work abroad for years.  Not only did they leave with their dreams and goals in life but they brought traditions along with them – including how they celebrate major events like Christmas.
  • Christmas at the mall – Filipinos love their malls which are always adorned with decorations to suit the event. Most of them organize shows, performances, and other forms of entertainment for family and friends to enjoy.

What are the Christmas traditions in the Philippines?

Simbang Gabi one of the traditions of Christmas in the Philippines

Caption:  Church During Simbang Gabi | Image Source

The following are a few Christmas traditions in the Philippines:

  • Starting Christmas in the -ber months
  • Completing all nine days of Simbang Gabi for Catholic devotees
  • Eating puto bumbong and bibingka outside churches after Simbang Gabi
  • Attending Misa de Gallo on Christmas Eve
  • Feasting on Noche Buena on Christmas eve, particularly after hearing the Misa de Gallo
  • Organizing reunions and get-togethers so family and friends can make up lost times
  • Caroling from house to house

How do you say Merry Christmas in the Philippines?

There are many ways to say Merry Christmas in the Philippines in the various local dialects:

  • Tagalog = Maligayang Pasko
  • Iloko/Ilokano = Naragsak nga Paskua
  • Waray-Waray = Maupay nga Pasko
  • Cebuano = Malipayong Pasko
  • Pangasinan = Maabig ya Pasko
  • Bikol/Bicolano = Maogmáng Pasko
  • Hiligaynon = Malipayon nga Pascua
  • Ibanag = Mapalupaguiya nga Pascua
  • Chavacano = Felices Pascua
  • Kapampangan = Masayang Kapaskuan

What is Santa Claus called in the Philippines?

Christian missionaries from Portugal and Spain travelled to the Philippines in the 1500s and introduced western traditions including Santa Claus which is called Santa Klaus or Santa Klaws in the country.

Where is the best place to celebrate Christmas in the Philippines?

Planning to spend holidays away from home?  Here are some of the best places in the Philippines where you can enjoy Christmas with family and friends:

  • Boracay – A different kind of white Christmas at one of the best beaches in the world
  • Palawan – Christmas in the Philippine’s last frontier!
  • Baguio – Magical Christmas in the City of Pines!
  • Tagaytay – Scenic Christmas!
  • Bohol – Christmas in Tropical Natural Haven!
  • Pampanga – Christmas with massive lanterns!
  • Siargao – Christmas in the Surfing Capital of the Philippines!
  • Vigan – Revisiting history for Christmas!
  • Cebu – Christmas in the oldest city in the country!
  • La Union – Surfing and Beach for Christmas!
  • BGC and Makati – Enjoy a modern-day Christmas in the metro!
  • Bacolod – Sweet Christmas in the City of Smiles!

What is there to do in Manila at Christmas?

  • Be captivated by Ayala Festival of Lights and 3D video-mapping show
  • Walk through more than 1-kilometer Tiendesitas’ Christmas tunnel
  • Be treated with Christmas Candy Cake, laser light, and dance performance at Greenhills Shopping Center
  • Marvel at the floating Christmas tree while enjoying a gondola-ride at Venice Grand Canal Mall
  • Enjoy skating and see animated Christmas characters at Araneta
  • Drive through Christmas tunnel in Frontera Drive, Ortigas
  • See SM Mall of Asia’s Grand Festival of Lights parade
  • Enter a real-life giant gingerbread house at Okada Manila
  • Visit and make a wish at Shangri-La Plaza’s Christmas decor and Santa’s corner
  • Be amazed by french elegance of the Art de Noël at Sofitel
  • Take IG-worthy photos at Sweet Illusion Chambers at Estancia Mall
  • Catch light shows and live performances at Filinvest’s Christmas Village

Why is Christmas so important in the Philippines?

Christmas is important to many Christians because it reminds them that: Jesus, the Son of God, came to Earth for all people, symbolised through the visits of the wise men and the shepherds.  Mary and Joseph both had a strong faith in God, despite the difficulties they faced.

Is December a good time to visit the Philippines?

The best time to visit the Philippines is from December to February when temperatures are around 24°C-31°C.  You’ll still enjoy hot, sunny days at this time with fewer crowds and lush, green scenery.  It’s worth noting the weather can be unpredictable in the Philippines … especially in December.

How do Filipinos celebrate Christmas? 

Christmas is a major event in the Philippines.  Most Filipinos go all out when celebrating this religious event.  It’s the time of the year when family and friends gather to spend time and celebrate together.  Even those who work abroad try their best to be home for Christmas.  Aside from the religious aspect which is attending the mass, celebration is always in the form of eating, drinking, singing, and dancing.  And the celebration doesn’t necessarily happen on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.  As early as the first week of December, parties and get-togethers begin to squeeze in time for all those family and friends in town.

What food is eaten on Christmas in the Philippines?

The following are popular foods during the Christmas season in the Philippines:

  • Lechon
  • Liempo
  • Roasted chicken
  • Fried chicken
  • Lechon kawali
  • Lumpia
  • Pinoy-style spaghetti
  • Fruit salad
  • Pancit Malabon
  • Christmas ham
  • Bibingka
  • Leche flan
  • Puto bumbong
  • Tsokolate

What is Noche Buena in the Philippines?

Noche buena literally translates to “good night” in English but it also refers to Christmas Eve. In the Philippines, it is one of the most popular Christmas traditions as it means the feast on Christmas Eve.  It’s a meal eaten after hearing the midnight mass referred to as Misa de Gallo to welcome Christmas Day.

 Christmas at the beach

Christmas is a season of enjoying the simple things that make life beautiful.  May you make great memories that will last forever.  We wish you much joy during this season and all through to the New Year.

How do YOU celebrate Christmas when in the Philippines?

About the Author

Cecille

Cecille produces the written content for the site & guides and handles all the administrative tasks. She also blogs about home and family life, beauty and food in her personal blog.

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