Christmas lasts for many months in the Philippines, from September to January, during the “Ber” months. On September 1st, Filipino homes begin assembling their Belén, or nativity scene, hang “paról” a Christmas lantern in the shape of a star constructed of wood, paper, metal, and capiz shell, which is typically used for windowpanes, and start playing Christmas music on the radio. Calendars fill up throughout this festive season with parades, events, and performances.
In the Philippines, it evolved naturally from Filipino culture, unlike the lengthy lead-up to Christmas in the United States, which frequently results from commercialization, such as Black Friday. The celebration of family, faith, fiesta, friends, and fun is known as Ber among Filipinos. The season’s commercialization happened afterwards, but its core principles remain its main concern. Given the ancient tradition of year-round fiestas in the Philippines, it is not surprising that the nation goes all out for the biggest fiesta of the year.
Christmas is very important to Filipino culture because faith is an integral aspect of the celebration. More over 90% of Filipinos identify as Christians, and 86% of those Christians are Roman Catholics. The Philippines were a Spanish colony from the sixteenth century to the end of the nineteenth century, which accounts for the high percentage of Christians and Roman Catholics in the nation. Throughout the Christmas season, Filipinos attend a variety of masses.
Simbang Gabi, or Dawn Mass, has been observed by Filipino Christians for the past five centuries and is the longest and most significant one. From December 16 to 24, it is held over nine days. However, the ceremony on the final day of Simbang Gabi is known as Misa de Gallo, which is Spanish for “Rooster’s Mass.” Families congregate outdoors to eat bibingka and puto bumbong afterward.
The grandest Christmas event, known as Noche Buena or “Midnight Feast,” takes place on Christmas Eve. Families, friends, and neighbors gather to celebrate and consume holiday fare. There are roasted pig, keso de bola, kare-kare, spring rolls, several noodle dishes, and dessert buko salads among the menu items. Families then share in the opening of gifts, and the children are given Aguinaldo and money from their godparents and family members.
Even Filipinos who reside overseas make preparations for the national holiday. Over 12 million Filipinos worked abroad in 2019. The majority of Filipinos living outside of the Philippines, or around 4 million people, reside in the United States. The third-largest Asian American population is made up of Filipinos. In order for family to get them before Christmas in December, many Filipino Americans send out tax-free balikbayan boxes in September. They partake in an Americanized version of Simbang Gabi, hang parol, and prepare traditional Christmas Eve meals. The holidays allow them to maintain a connection with their culture despite being distant from home.