Everything You Need to Know About Christmas Day in the Philippines
In the Philippines, Christmas is the longest and grandest public holiday. As early as September, houses, and streets are filled with Christmas trees and lanterns. Christmas carols fill the air, and it lasts until New Year’s Eve. In this article, we discuss every important detail about Christmas Day in the Philippines.
What is Christmas Day in the Philippines All About?
The Philippines has the largest number of Christians in Asia, with 80% of the population being Catholic. The official celebrations begin at the start of “Simbang Gabi” or “Misa de Gallo” where most people wake up at dawn and prepare to go to church to join early morning masses. The first mass starts on December 16, and the last mass is on Christmas Day.
For Catholics, religious customs and activities are the purposes of Christmas. It’s the real meaning of Christmas that makes it special and wonderful more than the festivities, decorations, and presents.
Things You Can Do During Christmas Day in the Philippines
On Christmas day, Simbang Gabi is primarily practised by Catholics and Aglipayans, Evangelical Christians, and other independent Christian churches following the tradition of having early morning masses before Christmas. Joining the Masses demonstrates their excitement for Christ’s birth and their devotion towards God. Furthermore, a popular belief claims that God grants a believer who hears all of the Nine Masses a special wish.
After the mass, people buy popular Filipino Christmas food for breakfast from stalls in front of the church. They may enjoy the delicacies the church premises or bring them home. Vendors sell many local delicacies, including putò bumbóng, bibingka and coffee, salabát and tsokolate as drinks.
Christmas Eve (“Bisperas ng Pasko”) is celebrated on December 24 with the attending of a midnight mass and the traditional Noche Buena feast. Family members wait until midnight to eat popular Christmas food together. The typical Filipino Noche Buena include queso de bola (Filipino style of the Spanish “ball of cheese” made of cheese sealed in red paraffin wax), tsokoláte, fruit salad, pandesal, Relleno, and Hamon(Christmas ham). For some other families, it is also time for opening the gifts they received.
Children are busy in their “pangangaroling” (going from one house to another singing Christmas carols) with their tambourines made of ‘tansans’ (metal bottle caps) sewn in a wire used as improvised instruments.
After singing several Christmas songs, the children will then chant “Namamasko Po” and expectantly wait for the homeowners to compensate their singing with coins.
The carolers then thanked the generosity of homeowners by singing, “Thank you, thank you, ang babait ninyo, Thank You!
How is Christmas Day in the Philippines Celebrated
Christmas songs and carols are just for starters. Filipinos begin decorating their houses with Christmas trees, lanterns, and other decorations. The residents also fill the streets with Christmas lights. They are careful in leaving no portion of their outdoors unlighted, turning the place to a beautiful sight.
Apart from all Christmas holiday sales and promos for Filipinos to enjoy with their Christmas bonuses and 13th-month pay, there are many other unique and special Christmas activities.
Specifically, attending Christmas parties with workmates, having a reunion with old friends, going to a family gathering hosted by a Balikbayan Tita, and many other events make the holiday special.
Most Filipinos join “Simbang Gabi” (early morning mass) as a tradition, nine days before Christmas, and prepare for Christmas Day. Family members and friends gather to stay up until midnight on December 24, eat together for Noche Buena, and open gifts.
But rather than decorations and unlimited parties, Christmas for most Filipinos is an opportunity to rest and go home to what matters most to them; family.
Venues and Special Events for Celebrating Christmas Day in the Philippines
Pamper Yourself In Tagaytay
Most Filipinos travel to Tagaytay to experience the coldest month of the year. It is the perfect time to go hiking to see Taal Volcano, grab a sunset dinner at Antonio’s, and relax among the warm and cosy boutique hotels. Some popular ones are 8 Suites, The Boutique, T-house, The Inn at Cliffhouse, and Meteora.
Watch the Festival of Giant Lanterns in the Christmas Capital of the Philippines
In San Fernando, Pampanga, you will find a popular festival during the Christmas season. Each barangay joins the competition for the honour of making the best and largest giant lantern display in the country. With a diameter of at least 18 ft, the lanterns dance to upbeat music while being manually operated to light up.
Visit the Enchanted Kingdom or the Manila Ocean Park With the Kids
The Enchanted Kingdom is a famous theme park located in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, just outside Manila. Many people visit the theme park during the Christmas season because of the cool weather, entertaining Christmas performances, and firework displays.
On the other hand, Manila Ocean Park has been one of Asia’s largest aquatic theme parks, near Manila Bay. It’s a fun spot to explore leisure activities. To further enjoy the place, you could stay at Hotel H2O or watch special Christmas shows.