Pasko – Christmas in the Philippines

It is said that in the Philippines Christmas starts in October when the shopping malls put up the Christmas decorations and the mood seems to last until February at around Candlemas or even after.

If one has been in the Philippines around Christmas time, one would have noticed that the decorations appear to be everywhere you can possibly put them and the most dominant among them is the paról, a star-shaped lantern. These come in varied patterns and sizes and many of them are things of some beauty.

Parols on the roadside

Paról parades are held in various places such as in the province of Albay, south of Manila (where can be found the famed Mayon volcano) in the municipality of Polangui in mid December. (Readers may want to turn the volume down for this youtube)

Perhaps the most loved preparation for Christmas is Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo (the “Cockcrow Mass”)This is a novena of Masses from 16 December until 24 December held around 4 a.m., that is, before dawn! In some areas brass bands would go around the town in the past to wake up the populace, urging them to proceed to the church. Electronic means do the same job mostly these days. Church bells will often be rung an hour beforehand also.

It is said that these Masses are offered in the morning before dawn uniquely in the Philippines and that the people of the Philippines were given special permission for this by the Pope (I have not been able to confirm this “special permission”). The tradition is that these Masses were in the darkness of early morning, rather than in the evening,  so that the farmers could go and toil in their fields straight after Mass,  as the sun rose and before it became too hot in the open.

Here is Simbang Gabi, again from the province of Albay, Legazpi City to be precise. Plenty of treats to breakfast on after Holy Communion later,  in the square outside the churchyard! (Again please to turn down the volume in the video. It was also probably inevitable that Santa Claus would make an appearance after 50 years of American rule.)

The celebrations don’t stop at Christmas. Epiphanytide is the time for many more local festivals, such as that of the Black Nazarene and those connected with el Santo Niño, the Holy Child.

After a terrible year of earthquakes and typhoons, may the people of the Philippines again find deep joy in their much loved feast of Christmas.


About GC

Poor sinner.
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9 Responses to Pasko – Christmas in the Philippines

  1. kathleen says:

    Well “Santa Claus” is, after all, only good old St. Nicholas. 😉

    What a wonderful people the Philippinoes are! They demonstrate such real joy and enthusiasm for Our Blessed Saviour’s Birth…. lasting FOUR months. Wow!
    (So GC, how long do the Easter celebrations go on for?)

    After a very tough year, may we wish a very happy and blessed Christmas to all our friends in the Philippines.


  2. GC says:

    Interesting point, Kathleen! Many may have noticed that the word used for Christmas there, Pasko, resembles the Spanish word for Easter, Pascua. It is generally accepted that the word for Christmas was derived from it. The two most popular of religious feasts are both called Pasko, although “Easter” is more properly called Pasko ng Pagkabuhay, the “pasko” of the Resurrection, or just “Easter”.

    Easter of course means some pretty seriously holidaying there, with re-enactments of Our Lord’s Passion, taken to rather excessive lengths in some places.

    Indeed, kathleen, let’s say a prayer this Christmas for all those affected this year by the earthquake and typhoon in the central Philippines.


  3. johnhenrycn says:

    The Philippines is not a Third World country, imo, but it’s a relatively poor one, which is one reason why , again imo, it’s so fervently faithful, God bless ’em.

    Meanwhile, in my neck of the woods, more than half a million people are without electricity due to a major ice storm, and many likely still will be for another week or more. At chez jeanhenri (who dat 😉 it was only out for a few hours, so the Christmas roast beef is still a go. Had to do the first reading on Sunday by flashlight, but it was heartening to see so many people showing up for Mass in the dark. All things considered, it’s a wonderful life.

    Happy Christmas to all, including my favourite foil, Mr Toad.


  4. GC says:

    Although in nearby very prosperous Singapore, religious practice among Christians is also at a high level. As it is here, where average incomes are higher than in our neighbour, the Philippines, although many here still have to struggle on monthly wages of just 3 or 4 hundred dollars.

    I think it has a lot to do with there being less of an overwhelming secular culture in these parts enforced by (dare I say it?) the media and by government education authorities. We remain, as most people naturally have been, mostly religious.

    I suppose you have a gas oven for the roast and gas domestic heating but not gas lighting, JH?
    A marvellous holiday time anyway for you and all the other “henries”.


  5. johnhenrycn says:

    Thanks, Golden. And best wishes to you for a happy and healthy 2014.


  6. Toadspitttle says:

    …Likewise from Toad.

    Who will endeavour to live up to the daunting responsibility of being JH’s foil in the coming year.
    With little sanguine expectation of success.


  7. GC says:

    And to you, dear Toad, and to Rebrites there in Castilla y León.

    It’s one and a half hours into the Feast of the Nativity here in equatorial Asia (and a cool 25 degrees). We’ll have to rug up soon.


  8. Great post! We are running a Christmas photo challenge at the moment by which we hope to gather photos and descriptions of Christmas traditions from all around the world. If you’d like to participate, write a couple of sentences about Christmas in the Philippines, send us a photo to represent it and we will publish the best entries on our blog with a link to your site. Sounds good? 🙂 Here you will find more details:
    Merry Christmas and a happy New Year! 🙂


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