Christmas Traditions in Philippines

Maligayang Pasko

Simbang Gabi
Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo or Dawn Mass,
signals the start of the Christmas season in the Philippines. It is a nine-day dawn Mass which starts December 16 and ends December 24. This is a Thanksgiving mass of the Filipinos for the gift of Christian faith and the coming of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Right after the mass, children visit their grandparents and godparents to ask for blessings. They kiss the hands of their elders or bringing the elders right hand and placed them to their forehead as a gesture of respect and greeting. This custom is called “mano”. On the first day of simbang gabi, people display their favorite Christmas decorations, one of the most important of which is the “Parol”.

One of the most prominent Christmas traditions in the Philippines is played by the Parol, lanterns in various colors, shapes and sizes that represent the star of Bethlehem. Replacing wax candles originally used in the early centuries, electric candles now light the lanterns. Parols showcase some of the Filipinos distinctive qualities: ingenuity, hospitality and passion for hope and peace. Hung on doors and windows, beginning in November, Parols keep the country aglow with magnificent sparkle. Foremost of all decorations are the “Parol” and the “Belen.” Parol is the star-shaped lantern made of indigenous materials like bamboo and Japanese paper or colored plastic. It is hanged over the door entrance or on windows. Belen is a nativity set, displayed anywhere in public or in homes.