Get to know more about Paskong Pinoy the distinctive, unique ways that the Philippines and the Filipinos celebrate the Birth of Christ.
First off, Christmas is very special in the Philippines, so special that we start celebrating it several months ahead of the rest of the world. No kidding!
Pasko officially starts on the First Sunday of Advent and ends on the day we celebrate the Feast of the Three Kings, which is every January 6. Unofficially, Filipinos starts celebrating Christmas as soon as the ‘ber’ months rolls-in.
January 1 to 6
The Philippine Christmas season!
No one here in the country will bat an eye when neighbors and friends start putting up the Christmas tree and holiday decors as early as September 1, unless it’s a foreigner unfamiliar with our traditions.
Even Filipinos abroad celebrates the the holidays early.
Paskong Pinoy Christmas Music
Most Filipinos look forward to hearing the first Christmas song on the radio, and it won’t be unusual if the very first holiday song played by the DJ is that of Jose Mari Chan’s Christmas in Our Hearts. That song has become a Christmas anthem for Filipinos here and all over the world.
For Filipinos and half-Filipinos, who are living in other countries and who haven’t been to the Philippines, there is a high possibility that you will encounter Mr Chan’s famous Christmas CD released in 1990, safely tucked in the collection of your tita or tito, mommy or daddy, cousin, and Filipino friends. That album and that song, Christmas in Our Hearts, is just iconic.
“Whenever I see girls and boys
Selling lanterns on the street
I remember the child in the manger as he sleeps
Wherever there are people
Giving gifts exchanging cards
I believe that Christmas is truly in their hearts…”
Christmas in Our Hearts song and lyrics by Jose Mari Chan, together with his daughter Lisa.
So yes, you will hear classic Christmas carols, favorite Filipino Christmas songs, popular Christmas jams invading the airwaves, tv and talk shows, cafes, airports, almost in every nooks and crannies when the ‘ber’ months is here.
When it comes to foreign acts, be ready to hear Mariah Carey belting her popular Christmas songs on radios and every where too haha. Oh yes, Jackson 5’s Christmas album and that of Ray Coniff Singers endures. Filipinos simply love music especially the old songs.
Christmas Station IDs
The Christmas Station IDs of ABS-CBN over the years are also widely popular especially “Bro, Ikaw Ang Star ng Pasko” and it won’t be amiss to say that many pinoys look forward to watching the ABS-CBN Christmas station ID music video coming out this December 2020.
Now, if you go to Youtube, notice that pinoys listen and leave comments on Christmas songs medleys on that music-streaming platform, any time of the year. March, yes. June, yes. August, yes. December, yes. Filipinos love songs and we enjoy Christmas songs even if the holiday is still far away! Go ahead, on Youtube, search “Filipino Christmas Medley” or “Paskong Pinoy Nonstop”. 🙂
Paskong Pinoy Handaan
Other countries have a different way of celebrating Christmas. Example in Japan, their popular Christmas food tradition is having KFC. Yes, buckets of crispy fried chicken on Christmas day to mark their holiday. Unlike in the Philippines where food is an integral part in the Filipino Christmas traditions.
Think of Pasko, what food comes first to mind? Probably some of these foods and kakanins are top in the list – puto bumbong, bibingka, christmas ham, quezo de bola, lechon, filipino spaghetti, embutido, fruit salad, mango-graham cake, leche flan, and a lot more.
We will be sharing recipes soon of classic and favorite Christmas dishes beloved by Filipinos. And we bet, you look forward to what’s on the table for Noche Buena, right? 🙂
Paskong Pinoy Christmas Traditions
Simbang Gabi Tradition
The most important aspect of the Paskong Pinoy is the deeply-ingrained traditions. Jesus Christ is the reason for the season. We celebrate His birth by attending mass and praying, being giving, being thankful and grateful.
For 9 straight days, we hear mass, the “Simbang Gabi”, this is perhaps the most important of all Filipino Christmas Traditions setting us apart from the way other countries celebrates the season.
Many attend the Simbang Gabi devotional masses in person in churches, some attend thru masses conducted online. This online masses are what our OFWs looks forward to so they can continue living the tradition.
We will be sharing the link for Simbang Gabi schedule of masses online once info is available.
Simbang Gabi starts on December 16 and ends on Christmas Eve, December 24. This year 2020, December 16 falls on a Wednesday and December 24 falls a Thursday.
Gift Giving Traditions
Gift- giving is also practice here in the Philippines during the holiday. Ninongs and ninangs, or the godfather and godmother during baptism will usually prepare gifts for their “inaanak” or godchild.
In the Western culture, children usually grow-up truly believing in Santa Claus. In the Philippines, kids know about Santa Claus, they sing songs about him, they know that the man in the red suit give gifts but most kids do not expect that there will be gifts under the Christmas tree coming from him. They know that is is mom and dad, aunties and uncles, titos and titas, lolos and lolas, their family and friends who loves them are the ones who gave them the gift, not Santa.
In some households where budget is limited, the gifts are usually new clothing and are given days before Christmas Day, like new dress and shoes, or new socks and handkerchief, or new tshirt and jeans. Why? So that the kids and adults will don this new clothes when they hear the Christmas Eve Mass or the Misa de Gallo. They want to receive the blessing of Christmas in their best clothes and mayhap by doing it, good things and abundance will continue to come.
Christmas Party and Games Tradition
When it comes to Filipino Christmas parties, gift-giving is part and parcel of it. The most popular way of gift-giving is perhaps the monito – monita. This is a practice wherein a theme is decided upon for the code name of the participants and then daily or weekly gifts are mandatory following a certain theme.
Some would choose super heroes or celebrities as code names to hide each one’s real identity. Then the daily or weekly gifts will be based on a theme – “something sweet”, “something long and hard”, “something funny”, “something round”, “something fluffy”, “something colorful”, and such other variations.
There are groups who ask everyone to submit a wishlist for gifts, this way the ‘partner monito” or “partner monita” will have an idea of the gift that the would-be-recipient favors and would like to get. Take note that usually a minimum value is required for the final gift to be given during the Christmas party, example gift worth minimum of Php 100, Php 200, Php 300, Php 500 etc.
The gift giver and the recipient will reveal the identities as they sing the Monito Monita song. You know the “I Love My Monito (Monita), Yes, I Do!”…
Another type of gift giving practice is the simple “exchange gift” or “exchanging gift”, this is mostly done by students during their Christmas parties. The method is that each one will bring a gift. Each gift will then be assigned a number, and the same number will be jotted down on a piece of paper. After all gifts are listed, everyone will gather, each taking turns getting a slip of paper. If it so happened that the person picked-up his own gift, then the whole thing will be reset, unless a new rule is agreed upon and applied.
There are still lots of ways to give and receive the gifts during Christmas parties. Maybe over the years, you have your favorite gift giving tradition.
Christmas Lantern or Parol
One symbol of Paskong Pinoy is the parol or the ‘Filipino Christmas lantern’.
Only a few households have Christmas wreath on the doors or have mistletoe up on the ceiling. What the Filipino household usually have is a parol.
The parol can be a simple star made of crepe paper, it can also be a giant parol with dancing lights like those made famous by Pampanga lantern-makers. It can be colorful, it can be made of capiz shells, it can be made of recycled pet bottles, etc. There is no limit to the creativity in the making of a parol to hang in homes, offices, parks, and everywhere else.
Belen or the Christmas Nativity Scene
The Belen or the Nativity Scene is another symbol of Paskong Pinoy. The Belen is usually placed prominently in the house or nearby the Christmas tree, while in the offices it is usually place in the entrance hall to welcome all.
The nativity scene depicts Baby Jesus in the manger being visited by the 3 wise men while Mama Mary, St Joseph, the shepherds and the animals looks on.
These are just some of the traditions, things and activities which makes Paskong Pinoy unique in the world.
Remember that the Magic of Christmas is not in the presents, but in His presence.
Our prayers is that you and your family will be blessed abundantly especially this Christmas season and for the years to come. May we all be a blessing to others too.
We also pray for the good of our country and of the world.
Thank you Lord Jesus Christ. Praise Be to God. Amen.