3 Unique Philippine Christmas Traditions

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Christmas is my favorite holiday season! There are many Philippine Christmas traditions that I love. This year, I started greeting family and friends with Maligayang Pasko (Merry Christmas!) as “early” as Thanksgiving Day. To be honest, I was late. I could have started greeting them as early as September. There is no other country that celebrates Christmas longer than the Philippines. Here are three unique Christmas traditions that are absolutely one-of-a-kind in the Philippines and celebrated by many Filipinos from all over the world.

How to Say ‘Merry Christmas!’ in Tagalog (Filipino)

Maligayang Pasko! (Merry Christmas!)

Listen and repeat: “Maligayang Pasko!” (Merry Christmas!)

Listen and repeat aloud several times until comfortable saying ‘Merry Christmas!’ in Tagalog.

Tradition #1: Celebrate in the -BER Months

As soon as the month of September sets in, the Christmas trees start going up! Filipinos welcome the “-ber” months of September, October, November and December as an entire Christmas season deserving of festive decorations in homes, streets and stores. Gleaming displays, blinking lights and decorative Christmas trees of all sizes and colors are found pretty much everywhere you look. Christmas carols in shopping malls and on the radio are heard with all the timeless Christmas classics.

Tradition #2: Displaying a Parol (Philippine Christmas Lantern)

Among the most amazing displays found everywhere in the Philippines and most Filipino homes around the world is the beautiful Parol. A parol is known as a Philippine Christmas lantern that is hand-made intricately with capiz shells, colorful papers, bamboo sticks, and lights, taking the shape of a 5-pointed star. It often has a circular wreath around the outer points and/or tassels hanging from the lower points.

Displaying a parol is a heart-warming Philippine tradition that gives people a sense of peace just by gazing at it. Each and every parol enhances the spirit of Christmas especially when it is put up and hung in homes, schools, offices, schools, and other establishments for display. This one’s a truly heart-warming Philippine Christmas tradition.

If you’re interested in making your own, this video gives a good overview on how to go about it.

But there are also some options on Amazon and even more on Etsy.

>> See selection on Etsy

How to Say ‘Parol’ in Tagalog (Filipino)

Parol (Philippine Christmas Lantern)

Listen and repeat: “Parol” (Philippine Christmas lantern)

Tradition #3 Philippine Christmas Food

Like many other cultures, Christmas in the Philippines and for Filipinos living around the world often involves getting together with family, but with lots and lots of yummy food. When I reminisce about the top things I think of in this special season of love and giving, I think of family first and then I can’t help but think of the food, especially during Noche Buena.

Noche Buena (The Filipino Christmas Eve Feast)

Noche Buena literally means a “Good Night” in Spanish, but in Tagalog its meaning is more along the lines of a “Christmas Eve feast.” It’s an unforgetable family salu-salo (get-together) during bisperas ng pasko (Christmas Eve) and just before pinaka-araw ng Pasko (Christmas day).

Filipino families look forward to Noche Buena’s grand family dinner that is overflowing with delicious Filipino foods on Christmas Eve. Foods like lechon (roasted pig), pancit (rice noodles), ham, queso de bola (ball of cheese), bibingka (baked rice cake) and a whole lot more.

As you spend time eating and talking you’ll want to grow your Tagalog Christmas vocabulary.

How to Say Christmas Words in Tagalog (Filipino)

As you’ve learned more about three of my favorite Philippine Christmas Traditions, you may have noticed some new words in Filipino (Tagalog). Here’s how to properly pronounce them.

Noche Buena (Christmas Eve feast)

Listen and repeat: “Noche Buena” (Christmas Eve feast)

Salu-salo (Get together, party, or reunion)

Listen and repeat: Salu-salo (Get together, party, or reunion)

Bisperas ng pasko (Christmas Eve)

Listen and repeat: Bisperas ng pasko (Christmas Eve)

Pinaka-araw ng Pasko (Christmas day)

Listen and repeat: Pinaka-araw ng Pasko (Christmas day)

Pancit (Rice noodles)

Listen and repeat: “Pancit” (Rice noodles)

Keso de bola (Ball of cheese)

Listen and repeat: Keso de bola (Cheese ball)

Lechon (Roasted pig)

Listen and repeat: Lechon (Roasted pig)

Bibingka (Baked rice cake)

Listen and repeat: Bibingka (Baked rice cake)

The Joy of Philippine Christmas Traditions!

These three are what I find to be the most well-loved, one-of-a-kind and memorable Philippine Christmas traditions we have. There are a lot more Filipino traditions, but these come in at the top of my list. Kay saya (What joy!) it is for the Philippines and Filipinos to celebrate the Christmas season — the longest in the world! Maligayang Pasko!

How to Say ‘What joy!’ in Tagalog (Filipino)

Kay saya! (What joy!)

Listen and repeat: Kay saya! (What joy!)

Rizza Huetter

Now living in the United States, I know what it takes to master a new language and have a lot of fun doing it. I currently teach English online, but Tagalog Fun has become a passion project of mine and I hope it helps many people fall in love with Tagalog and the Filipino culture.


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