Leaving Christmas in the Palestinian Territories behind us, our Christmas around the world tour takes us south east for 8,932km to Philippines.
Situated in southeast Asia in the Pacific Ocean, Philippines has a population of over 106 million people. The country is made up of around 7,500 islands, with almost 5,000 still not named on world maps! Around 2,000 of the islands are inhabited.
The Filipinos are a varied population, speaking over 170 languages between them. They are also the 5th largest English speaking country in the world - their official languages being Filipino and English.
With so many islands to choose from, Philippines is a hit with tourists and is home to some stunningly beautiful beaches and locations. Their coastline covers a distance of 36,289km so you're spoilt for choice!
So, how do they celebrate Christmas in Philippines?
In Philippines, they celebrate Christmas on 25th December with formal celebrations starting on 16th December and they last until the first Sunday in January - Epiphany.
Most Filipinos are Christian and 80% are Catholic.
Christmas trees are popular. A popular traditional decoration is the ‘parol’ which is a bamboo pole with a star lantern on it meant to represent the star that guided the Wise Men to Jesus. This is usually made from bamboo strips and coloured cellophane paper.
Christmas carols are often played in stores, starting from as early as September. From December 16th to Christmas Day, there are 9 early-morning masses (called ‘Simbang Gabi’ in Filipino) that many people will attend in the build up to Christmas and the final one is on Christmas Eve evening which is followed by a midnight feast (Noche Buena). Noche Buena is a big open house celebration with family and neighbours, other people may also visit to quickly wish everyone a Merry Christmas.
Christmas customs in the Philippines are pretty heavily influenced by the west; they have Santa Claus, Christmas cards, and western Christmas carols. Many people, even if they don’t attend the Church service, will stay up all night on Christmas Eve. Santa R-Kayma Klaws is a significant part of Christmas for many poor Filipino children; He’s a Filipino citizen who’s in his 70s and dresses up as Santa every year (for 50 years) for charity missions and corporate events in poor areas. He has an air-conditioned bus that’s referred to as a ‘giant motor sleigh’ and he also owns the Philippines’ only reindeer farm which is open to the public for free.
The Noche Buena feast on Christmas Eve (midnight) includes dishes such as; roasted pig (lechon), ham, fruit salad, rice cakes (such as puto which are steamed, and bibingka which are baked), steamed rice, and a variety of sweets. Many different drinks accompany the meal.
Our next Christmas destination looks at Christmas celebrations in Poland.