Christmas is one of the biggest holiday seasons in the Philippines. I remember growing up looking forward to celebrating Christmas with all the traditions that goes along with it. It officialy starts on December 16 with "Simbáng Gabi" , Night Mass. Simbang Gabi is a nine -day series of Catholic Mass in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is usually done as early as 3 to 5 o' clock in the morning. Luckily, Mom did not require all four of us kids to participate in this tradition. Can you imagine waking up at 2 am in the morning for nine days ?!! It ends on the morning of Chritmas eve , it is called "Misa de Gallo" , which literally means “Rooster’s Mass”
“Bisperas ng Pasko”, Christmas eve night, is when the fun starts. I remember anticipating the opening of gifts after attending the midnight mass. Then, we dine together after mass, on yet another traditional Christmas meal called " Noche Buena" feast. which includes: "queso de bola", Spanish: "ball of cheese"," tsokoláte" , Hot chocolate, "pan de sal", Filipino fresh bread, (yummmmm), and "hamon" Christmas ham.
Christmas day in The Philippines is a especially huge family affair. We would visit relatives, and pay respect to the elders. “Pagmamano” which is done by bringing the elder's hand to one's forehead, while saying the phrase "Máno Po" , hand please, is a custom of giving respect and an age-old tradition .The elder then blesses the person who has given their respect, and in return gives "Aguinaldo". money in fresh bills. Godparents are especially socially obligated to give presents to their godchildren. A christmas lunch usually follows after the “Pagmamano"
After 26 years of living here in the United States, I cannot help but still think about those fun and memorable Filipino traditions every Christmas season. As a matter of fact, during the fiirst few years of living here in the United States, our mother tried to stick to some of the traditions , paying attention to the Catholic mass and Noche Buena. Yet, life and living here is different and sometimes, compromises has to be made in order to somewhat preserve the values learned from these customs.
Now that I have my own family, traditions are further “tweaked” in order to start our own. Keeping in mind that the same important values are shared and passed on to our daughter, not only during Christmas, but all throughout the year.
So, during this holiday season, let us remember all the wonderful things we used to do growing up, when life were a bit simpler. Even to those when life had been specially tough growing up, remember the lessons and values learned from it. To all my family, friends, and “kapwa Filipinos”, fellow Filipinos, "Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon", Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Filipino Kids Christmas Caroling
I wanna make one!