If you find yourself vacationing in the Philippines during December, you’ll discover a nation transformed into a festive wonderland. Embrace the warmth of Filipino hospitality amidst a backdrop of vibrant traditions and have an unforgettable journey filled with festive cheer.
Christmas and New Year’s Eve hold profound cultural and religious significance in the Philippines. Deeply rooted in the country’s predominantly Catholic faith, its celebration is marked by a unique blend of traditional Filipino customs, family gatherings, lively public celebrations and global holiday practices.
Here are some travel tips during the most awaited and cherished occasions throughout the country:
- Pack light and comfortable clothing: December is part of the dry season in the Philippines, so pack light and breathable clothing to stay comfortable in the tropical climate.
- Prepare for festive crowds: Christmas is widely celebrated in the Philippines, and popular tourist spots and markets can be crowded. Plan your itinerary accordingly and be patient in bustling areas.
- Book your flights and accommodations in advance: December is a peak travel season due to the holidays. Secure your accommodations in advance to ensure availability and potentially take advantage of festive promotions.
- Check Festival Schedules: Research local festivals and events happening in December. Giant Lantern Festival in Pampanga, for example, is a must-see for its dazzling display of intricate lanterns.
- Learn Basic Local Phrases: English is widely spoken, but learning a few basic Filipino phrases can enhance your interactions with locals and enrich your travel experience.
- Experience Simbang Gabi: Attend Simbang Gabi, the traditional series of dawn Masses leading up to Christmas. It’s a cultural and spiritual experience that offers a unique insight into Filipino traditions.
- Embrace Local Cuisine: Indulge in traditional Filipino holiday treats such as bibingka, puto bumbong, and lechon. Explore local markets and street food stalls for a culinary adventure.
- Have a Media Noche Feast: The New Year celebration begins with the Media Noche feast, a grand midnight feast on New Year’s Eve. Families gather for a sumptuous meal that typically includes a variety of special dishes, such as lechon (roast pig), pancit (noodles for long life), and a selection of sweets.
- Fireworks and Noise-making: As the clock strikes midnight, the sky across the Philippines is illuminated with a spectacular display of fireworks. Firecrackers and noise-making are also integral parts of the celebration, believed to drive away evil spirits and welcome the New Year with positive energy.
- Watch Night Services: For those with a religious inclination, attending a Watch Night Service at a church is a meaningful way to welcome the New Year. These services often include prayers, reflections, and thanksgiving for the year that has passed.
By keeping these travel tips in mind, you’ll be well-prepared to immerse yourself in the festive and culturally rich atmosphere that defines the Philippines in December. The customs and traditions associated with the season carry spiritual significance, contributing to a sense of unity and optimism as Filipinos welcome the coming year with joy and anticipation.