Christmas in the Philippines (Southeast Asia)
Updated: Nov 25, 2019
A Brief History
Christianity came to the Philippines via Arab Christian traders, who had heard the gospel from Peter in Jerusalem (Acts 2:11) and were later evangelized by Paul (Galatians 1:17) and St. Thomas. Persian Nestorians were also influential in bringing Christianity to the Philippines, just as they had to Japan. However, neither the Persians nor the Arabs attempted to evangelize the people of the Philippines. Fast forward to 1521, when the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the Philippines, searching for the Spice Islands on behalf of the Spanish crown. Due to the absence of a centralized power in the Philippines, the Spanish were easily able to subjugate and Christianize the Filipino people.
Though many historians claim that the Philippines peacefully accepted Spanish rule, this is not the case. There were many insurgences and rebellions throughout the Spanish colonial period. In a little over a century most of the Filipinos in the lowland areas were converted to Roman Catholicism.
The Philippines is one of only two predominately Catholic countries in Asia. The Philippines also has the longest Christmas celebration in the world! Filipinos have a saying, ‘once the months that end in ‘ber’ have started, we start playing Christmas songs.’ Christmas songs are heard in shops, restaurants, stores—everywhere.
Filipinos greet each other with “Maligayang Pasko,” which is Tagalog for Merry Christmas. One of the most important symbols of the Christmas holiday in the Philippines is the parol. The parol is a star lantern. Similar to the Mexican piñata in appearance; it consists of various materials such as bamboo, rice paper and crepe paper which are lighted. The parol is symbolic of the Star of Bethlehem which guided the Magi to the Christ Child. Parols can be seen everywhere decorating homes, offices and shop windows in the Philippines.
As in many Christian and Catholic countries around the world, children sing Christmas carols door to door. Filipinos also participate in gift giving, a tradition called Monito-Monita. Just as in many other countries, Christmas trees are also part of the tradition.
Traditionally, Filipinos kicks off Christmas on December 16th and continue for 9 days until Christmas Day. These nine masses are called Simbang Gabi (Mass at Dawn), and begin as early as 4 am in the morning! Many devout Catholics attend all nine masses as a Novena—a prayer or devotion for nine consecutive days to obtain special graces.
On Christmas Eve, everyone will celebrate Misas de Gallo (Mass of the Rooster) at midnight, thus ending the novena. La Noche Bueno, which begins after the midnight mass, is the Christmas Eve feast. Food is in abundance, and includes recipes that vary by family, but usually also includes a big cheese ball and holiday ham. Christmas Day is celebrated with family. Children visit their elderly relatives and godparents, in return they receive money, gifts or a blessing. Roasting a pig for Christmas is very
Christmas officially comes to an end on January 6th, The Feast of the Three Kings day, aka the Feast of the Epiphany. Some children leave their shoes out so that the Three Kings will leave gifts of candy or money inside.
Pray for righteous and just governance for the nation. Pray for political stability throughout the country. Pray for honesty, justice, and fairness to replace corruption and greed in the government. Pray that God would reveal Himself through dreams and visions as He draws Muslim people to Himself. Pray for a continued spiritual openness and a real hunger for the Truth.