As the world prepares for the yuletide season, the Philippines takes its unique place in the spotlight with its heartwarming traditions and festive events. Here are some of the most wonderful things to do during the holiday season in this tropical paradise.
- Join Simbang Gabi
Kickstart your Filipino Christmas experience by participating in Simbang Gabi, a series of nine early morning from 16th to 24th December. Families and communities gather before sunrise to attend these special Masses, often held in beautifully decorated churches and chapels, to honor the Virgin Mary and prepare for the birth of Jesus.
- Take a stroll through bustling Night Markets
As the cool December evenings arrive, these markets come alive with colorful stalls, twinkling lights, and the tantalizing aroma of Filipino street food. It’s a place where locals and visitors alike can shop for unique gifts. Plan ahead, stay tuned for updates on these markets and get ready to experience value for money with your Christmas shopping:
- Greenhills Night Market
- Night bazaars of Metro Manila
- along the famous stretch of Harrison Road in Baguio City
- Davao’s Pasko de Fiesta
- Cebu’s Christmas Night Market in Fuente Osmeña Circle
- Paskwa sa Kapitolyo in Bacolod City
- Christmas Night Market in San Fernando, La Union
- Subic Bay’s Christmas Market at Harbor Point
- Hear the sounds of Christmas
Once the “Ber” months (September to December) start, be sure to hear a symphony of joyful melodies – from the lively and harmonious voices of children caroling, to enchanting notes of traditional Christmas songs playing in malls and homes. The sweet strains of local carols like “Pasko Na Sinta Ko”, “Ang Pasko ay Sumapit” evoke a sense of nostalgia, while the spirited “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls” add an international touch to the festivities.
- Admire Parols
These luminous works of art illuminate homes, streets, and communities, particularly during the “Ber” months and showcase the Filipino craftsmanship, often made from bamboo frames and covered with colorful crepe paper or capiz shells, meticulously assembled by local artisans.
And if you happen to be in Pampanga between 17th December until 1st of January, make sure to attend the Giant Lantern Festival or “Ligligan Parul.” Here, you’ll witness awe-inspiring displays of colossal lanterns, each a testament to the craftsmanship and creativity of local artisans.
- Marvel at the “Belen” Displays
A “Belen” is a Nativity scene, and during the holidays, various communities create intricate and artistic displays of the Holy Family. Filipinos put great care and creativity into their “Belens,” often incorporating local cultural elements and materials into these depictions. Whether carved from wood, sculpted from clay, or arranged using recycled materials, Belen displays serve as a meaningful representation of the birth of Jesus, offering a visual reminder of the true reason for the season.
- Savor Festive Food
The holiday season in the Philippines is a mouthwatering affair, marked by an array of delectable dishes that celebrate both tradition and festivity.
The scent of traditional Filipino delicacies will fill your senses as communities come together and enhance the festive feels. Try the bibingka, a rice cake baked in banana leaves or the puto bumbong, a purple glutinous rice treat steamed in bamboo tubes.
Don’t miss the traditional Noche Buena – a cherished tradition where families and friends come together on Christmas Eve to share a lavish feast. Book a table in a local restaurant or join a local family for dinner and you will find a couple of staples for the feast such as the Queso de Bola, the Filipino version of edam cheese and the hamon, a sweet and savory holiday ham. Cap off your evening with a warm and comforting cup of tsokolate, a traditional Filipino hot chocolate. Bring a small gift for your host and participate in the fun tradition of exchanging of gifts before or after your soul-filling Noche Buena.
Christmas in the Philippines is not just a holiday; it’s a remarkable cultural journey. By participating in these activities, you’ll not only enjoy the festive season but also gain a deeper appreciation for the local traditions and the warm Filipino spirit that makes Christmas in the Philippines so unique.