Pinoy Christmas traditions, then and now
MANILA, Philippines – There’s nothing quite like Filipino Christmas traditions.
Ours are a mix of influences mainly from Spain as well as other countries in the West. This is why we put up a belen in the living room and leave letters for Santa Claus, or why we drag ourselves out of bed in the wee hours of the morning for simbang gabi and hang a parol (Christmas lantern) outside our home.
It is why we share a hearty Noche Buena with our families after attending Misa de Gallo on Christmas Eve, and open presents under the Christmas tree at the stroke of midnight, too.
We have more of these time-honored traditions and they are well and alive today. But over the years, we Pinoys have also started to incorporate our own new traditions that make Christmas even more intimate, fun, and meaningful.
We talked to some of our friends to discover their personal new traditions, and these are what they told us.
Christmas and the movies
As it begins on December 25 every year, many of us have come to make watching an entry or two (or even all) of the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) a Christmas tradition for the entire family.
“The first thing we do [on] Christmas morning is to hear mass. Then we go straight to the cinemas to watch an MMFF movie,” Jennifer, a collection specialist, said. After, they go have dinner at home, dining on leftover Noche Buena fare.
Likewise, Jen, an editor, usually finds herself watching MMFF movies with her mother. She candidly shared that her mom even makes it a point to watch those that star Kris Aquino, who’s an MMFF mainstay.
Home away from home
For some, Christmas is an opportunity to take a breather from the hustle and bustle of everyday life with loved ones.
Wilma, a logistics coordinator, has been going on staycations with family and friends at hotels or condotels. For one or two nights starting Christmas Eve, they’d all spend time together just bonding, relaxing, eating, and enjoying activities such as swimming in the pool.
Meanwhile, Rowena, a managing editor for digital media, has been spending the holidays the last few years in Baguio.
“Christmas in Baguio could be crowded and crazy but it’s always chill and enjoyable. Baguio feels more homey when it’s Christmas,” she said.
The things money can’t buy
Christmas is a time for sharing, giving, and spending time with loved ones. And for many of us, these simple yet heartwarming activities are more than enough to have a meaningful holiday.
Marice, a digital public relations and social consultant, loves taking photos with her beloved cat Coco in front of their Christmas tree at home.
“It’s just fun and cute to see how he’s grown and how moody he’s gotten over the years,” she said.
For Ana, a content strategist, Christmas will never be without her cousin’s after-midnight gatherings at her place with freshly baked cookies and free-flowing tea and coffee.
“It’s much more intimate this way, and we get to play board games or watch series together in the comforts of home,” she said.
Steph, a customer experience consultant who recently relocated to Singapore, said that this Christmas will be more about spending quality time and doing acts of kindness for others like catching up with her flatmates over pizza and wine, and less about gift-giving.
“It's impossible to avoid buying things, I guess, but it's about being more mindful of what you buy and not just for the sake of gift-giving,” she shared.
And for Miko, opening their home to people in their community like street children and neighbors is one Christmas tradition that his family can’t do without.
Leveling up Christmas food traditions
Of course, dining on sumptuous fare has long been a Christmas tradition for us. There are certain special dishes that complete our celebration, made even more special with a longtime favorite: cheese.
Jennifer and Wilma always have a batch of spaghetti, while Marice has lasagna and baked mac, in their Noche Buena menu.
“Pasta is a traditional Christmas dish in the family loved by both children and adults,” Wilma said. For her part, Marice shared, “I think our Christmas celebration is incomplete if we don’t have these dishes.”
For Jen, it’s buko salad. “My mom makes buko pandan salad which always has cheese. She always makes it because many request it from her,” she said.
Miko, meanwhile, said that macaroni salad with cheese is his favorite Noche Buena dish. It needs to have cheese – he won’t even eat the salad without it!
As you can see, times may have changed and Christmas traditions may have evolved but one thing stays the same. Everything we do, whether it’s an old or new tradition, always puts our loved ones at the center.
Christmas, after all, is that one important time of the year where we pull all the stops to be with them and make them and ourselves happy.
What are your own new Christmas traditions? Share them with us in the comments! – Rappler.com
All illustrations by Ernest Fiestan