Christmas for a Filipino

By John Ergon Golpe ’24


It may just be that time of year again for you, but for me the holiday spirit already arrived months ago. Since my home-country’s colonization by the Spanish in 1521, the Philippines has passionately clung to its rich Catholic roots.

Unlike other countries that celebrate Christmas, Filipinos excitedly begin the holiday season of Pasko as early as the first of September. We fill our households with stunningly ornate Christmas trees and turn on Christmas lights that hang on our front porches a whole month before Halloween arrives.

One distinct Filipino Christmas decoration is the parol, which is a vibrant, multi-coloured, star-shaped lantern that hangs right above our front door. In our culture, the lantern symbolizes light’s victory over darkness and expresses our faith and goodwill during the holidays.

On Christmas Eve, church pews are filled by hundreds of Filipino families who are ecstatic to celebrate the conclusion to Advent. I can still remember all the times my family and I went to Mass on the night before Christmas throughout the years. Even when we celebrated Christmas abroad, we were always adamant to find a cathedral to visit so that we could dedicate time to reflect on the birth of our Lord. This was a family tradition that we would commit to before hosting Christmas parties or having Christmas feasts.

When strolling into a Filipino Christmas party, you should expect nothing but pure fun. Of course, that is what anyone would expect at any other party, much less a Christmas-themed one; however, when it comes to Filipinos, you haven’t had fun until you come home tired from wolfing down a mountain’s worth of lechon, kare kare, laing, and sisig, and dancing and singing karaoke for hours on end.

Long after the holiday season is over, Filipinos keep their Christmas decorations up for a couple more months into the new year. This is done to keep up the festive spirit for a little longer, but admittedly this is mostly due to sheer laziness, at least in my experience. There was one instance where my parents left our Christmas tree to collect dust until Easter, which did nothing but annoy me as I was always met with an out-of-season eyesore when sauntering into the living room.

Mere words cannot describe my love for Filipino Christmas. Not only does this wondrous holiday give me–like everyone else–something to look forward to at the end of the year, but it also helps me connect with my family and my spiritual roots. I love that it gives my loved ones a reason to set their differences aside, whatever they may be, to gleefully indulge in the Christmas cheer.

I implore you to discover that cheer in your own culture, whatever it may look like, and to share it with the world. Merry Christmas and Maligayang Pasko!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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