The celebration of Christmas season in the Philippines is the most awaited and the happiest event. It is the only season where members of the family, even those living in the farthest land, would come home just to celebrate Christmas with the other members of the family to a place they call Home.

The celebration of Christmas season in the Philippines is not just a one day celebration. The preparation usually starts from the month of September. But the actual celebration of Christmas usually begins on the 16th of December and ends on the first Sunday of January which is the Feast of Epiphany (The Three Kings).

During the preparation there are some practices and traditions that are uniquely Filipino. Among them are the following:

  • The hanging of Christmas Lantern in their homes. As early as November, some houses have their own Christmas Star or locally known as "Parol" hanging outside their home. For the Filipinos, the star symbolizes the Star of Bethlehem which helped the 3 Wise Kings find the baby boy "Jesus" who was believed to be born in the manger. You can easily say that Christmas has started in Filipino homes once you see a colorful and even simple Parol hanging outside their home.
  • Putting up a colorful Christmas tree. Putting up a Christmas tree is one of the most exciting activities among the members of the family. Each member of the family has its own share in putting up the tree. From choosing the motif to choosing its decorations (balls and lights), everything is being planned carefully. Since real Pine trees are very expensive and it wouldn't last for almost 3 months or until the Christmas celebration is over, most Filipinos would just either buy a plastic tree from a mall or make an improvised Christmas tree using recycled materials such as old newspapers, colored magazines or tree branches. Once the colored balls and the Christmas lights are placed, they are as beautiful as those expensive trees being sold in the malls.
  • Singing of Christmas Carols. This is a unique practice of Filipinos because once the month of December starts, expect a group of people (from all ages) to come to different houses to serenade with Christmas Carols. Just be ready to have your coins or bills to give to the carolers. Also expect them to come the next day to sing once again. Saying "no" to them is an option, but make sure you won't feel a sense of guilt for driving them away without giving them anything. As December 25 comes nearer, Christmas caroling is becoming more frequent in every house.
  • The observation of evening mass locally known as "Simbang Gabi." Simbang Gabi is Filipino Christmas tradition which lets the people with Catholic faith to complete a series of nice (9) dawn masses. The mass starts as early as 4:00 a.m. in every Catholic church. It begins on December 16 and ends on the midnight of December 24th. Many people believe that once you have completed the nine masses, your wish will be granted. After the mass, members of the family and friends enjoy the freshly cooked native delicacies being sold just outside the church.
  • Gift giving or gift exchanging. Gift giving or exchange is one of the fun activities being done during Christmas Eve (December 24th) or Christmas Day (December 25th). For the Filipinos, it is called "Monito-Monita." It is a fun way of gift giving since a person may never know who is his or her monito or monita though they personally picked their names few days or weeks prior to the Christmas Eve. To make this activity more fun, some rules may be changed such as using a code name instead of the real name. The identity of each person who participated in Monito-Monita should remain confidential or else the activity will loose its excitement. Some members would give out some clues of who they are and what they want, just to give their manito or manita an idea on what they want to get for Christmas. Sounds clever, right? Expect a fun scenario once the monito or monita is finally revealed on the night of Christmas.
  • A real feast during Christmas Eve. The Christmas Eve feast is called "Noche Buena." It is a special occasion for Filipinos since it's the time when all members of the family gather in the dining table and feast on the special dishes that are specifically prepared for the occasion. The table is nicely arranged with beautiful Christmas decorations together with the foods that are beautifully and deliciously placed using their best china and silverware. The foods usually include a mixture of Filipino, Spanish and Chinese cuisines or depending on what was requested by each member. But the roasted pig or "lechon" on the table is one of the main dishes that every member would love to indulge.

Christmas for the Filipinos is not all about the practice of tradition, the colorful decorations or the gift giving or the food on the table. It's about unity of a family not only to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ but to thank God for all the blessings that he has given to each members of the family. It also gives them a chance to wish everyone a better and happier life in the years to come. For the Filipinos, that is the true essence of Christmas.