Filipinos, who are 80% Catholics are known to celebrate the longest Christmas season in the world. The festivities start as early as September and ends on the Sunday feast of the three kings, which is usually the first Saturday of January.
Christmas usually brings back fond childhood memories of colorful decorations and star lanterns that dress up malls, stores, thoroughfares, houses and offices. Christmas carols played over the radio adds that special nostalgic touch. A build up of traffic begins as shoppers make a beeline for different shopping malls and “Tiangges” (bazaars) to complete their Christmas list, making sure to buy that special gift for family and friends.
Christmas celebrations sometimes begin as early as November. Reunions, get together with friends, office mates and extended families are full of Christmas cheer coupled with festive food and drinks. All that eating could certainly become extra pounds and bulges.
Highlighting the Christmas tradition is the “Simbang Gabi,” a 4 am mass celebrated for 9 straight days beginning on December 15. Filipino snacks like bibingka (Rice cake) and Puto Bungbong (steamed glutinous rice) plus hot chocolate drinks are sold as breakfast right outside the church.
The Yultide season climaxes as the whole family attends the midnight mass where the birth of Christ is reenacted or read from the Bible. After mass, the family partakes of the “Noche Buena,” a delectable array of food which include the “Quezo De Bola” (Edam Cheese), Ham, Bibingka (Rice cake), Sopas (Soup), pandesal (bread roll) and Baby Dolls other recipes usually handed down through generations. After the “Noche Buena” meal, there is gift giving, singing and merriment until the wee hours of the morning.
The Filipino Christmas is the longest celebration in the world because Filipinos value the true meaning of Christmas: The birth of Jesus, being with family and upholding traditions. A very merry Christmas to all!