Christmas in the Philippines celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ who, according to Biblical tradition, was sent by God to save people from sin and death. The holiday is held every 25 December.
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The Christmas season in the Philippines is summed up in three words: faith, family and food – with the three intertwined in almost every event. Masses are held in churches leading up to Christmas Day, with many feasts held alongside them. The length of the season varies: Christmas can last from a few weeks to a few months. Christmas carols are played in the shopping centres and malls from as early as September until well into January.
A clear sign the Christmas season has truly begun is the hanging of star-shaped lanterns called parol in every public space and household. The parol, representing the Star of Bethlehem, is unique to the Philippines and is as quintessential to the season as Christmas trees and fake snow are to the Western cultures.
In the week leading up to Christmas, a series of masses called Misa de Gallo are held late every night. On Christmas Eve, there is (you guessed it) another mass held at midnight helpfully named, “Midnight Mass”, followed by a traditional family feast called Noche Buena running well into the early hours of Christmas morning.
A Christmas lunch is prepared for extended family where they open presents, eat, play games, sing karaoke, and eat some more. Older members of the family are revered and traditions, such as Pagmamano (taking the older family member’s hand and gently placing it on one’s forehead as a sign of respect), are practiced. The day ends only when people are too full to eat or are obliged to go to another household to eat some more.