PASKO: Christmas in the Philippines

The Tagalog word Pasko derives from the Spanish word Pascua. Although the wordPascua means Easter, Pascua de Navidad refers to Christmas.

The Philippines is known for having the world’s longest Christmas season. The four months that end with the syllable –ber are considered Christmas months, which is why stores and households start playing carols on the first day of September! And the holiday season extends beyond December 31st. It doesn’t end until the Feast of the Epiphany or Three Kings (Tatlong Hari) which falls around January 6.

If Mexico has piñatas, the Philippines has its parol. Of course, a parol is not something to hit with a stick. It is a Christmas lantern, most commonly in the shape of a five-pointed star. The bamboo or rattan frame is covered with rice paper, tissue or cellophane. Almost every family either builds or buys one to hang by the window or door. Shopping malls construct giant versions of parol. Traditionally, a candle was placed inside for light to shine through; for safety reasons, people now use bulbs or even a flashlight. Families, schools and other places also display a creche or nativity scene called belen. Christmas trees made of plastic are decorated with lights, tinsel and balls.

The Tagalog word for gift is regalo, but Filipinos have a special word for "Christmas gift" — pamasko. The Filipino version of Secret Santa is called Monito Monita or Kris Kringle. Students in their classes and office workers all hold gift exchanges during the Christmas season. Children receive fresh bills of money called aginaldo, usually when they visit their godparents and elderly relatives on Christmas morning.

Mostly Catholics, Filipinos begin a novena (a series of nine masses) on December 16th. The masses are part of the cherished religious tradition of Simbang Gabi, which literally means “Night Worship.” Filipinos go to church at four o’clock in the morning and afterward have breakfast together. A traditional drink during this season is a warm ginger tea called salabat and a traditional treat is a flat but thick yellow rice cake called bibingka.

On Christmas Eve (Bisperas ng Pasko), a few Filipino towns commemorate Joseph and Mary’s search for a place to stay with a reenactment called panunuluyan, a tradition very similar to the Mexican posadas.

What every Filipino looks forward to is Noche Buena, the grand family dinner after the midnight mass. Christmas morning is the time for visiting relatives. Filipinos wear new if not their best clothes. Children do mano, which is kissing or bringing to their forehead the hand of an elderly person. This is when they receive their pamasko, certainlyaguinaldo from godfathers and godmothers. Christmas lunch and Christmas dinner are with family.


Christmas around the world

Here we take a look at some of the yuletide customs observed by our cousins across the globe
From Spain: Saint Nicholas is escorted by his assistants called Zwarte Piet
From Spain: Saint Nicholas is escorted by his assistants called Zwarte Piet
The Netherlands
Here, the most important day of the festive season is December 5, when Sinterklaas, or St Nicholas, arrives by steamboat from his home in Spain.
Until the 19th Century, Sinterklaas operated along, bringing well-behaved children presents and spiriting bad youngsters away in his sack for re-education and a beating.
However, in 1850, children's author Jan Schenkman drew him with a black servant, who later became known as Zwarte Piet or Black Pete.
It became Zwarte Piet's job to go down the chimney to deliver presents and catch the less fortunate children.
Saint Nicholas is escorted by his three assistants called "Zwarte Piet" during a traditional parade in central Brussels
From Spain: Saint Nicholas is escorted by his assistants called Zwarte Piet

The land of ice and snow has no fewer than 13 Santa Clauses.
Thirteen days before Christmas, the first Santa descends from the mountains and visits each house to put treats in children's shoes while they sleep.
Well-behaved children get presents such as mandarins, scratch cards and sweets, while bad kids typically receive something less attractive, such as a potato.
The next day the second Father Christmas comes to town and so on.
Then on December 25, the first one goes back, the next day the second one goes back.
January 6 is called "the thirteenth" and is the last day of Christmas because that day the last Santa goes home.

Here, Christmas Eve is the most important day of the festive season.
Families traditionally mark the occasion with a feast and a visit to church for midnight mass.
Some families will sing at Christmas but in general the mood is one of contemplation and reflection.

For Polish children presents arrive on December 6.
That's because this is St Nicholas Day, or Sw. Mikolaj Day and St Nicholas is the original Father Christmas.
Unlike Santa in the UK, this character dresses in the white and gold of a Bishop, rather than red and white.

Here, presents are exchanged on Christmas Eve.
They are sometimes delivered by Santa Claus, although he goes by the name Julenissen.
Gifts are also brought by small gnomes called Nisse.
Many families will leave a sheaf of wheat out for birds to eat over Christmas.
They often also leave out rice porridge for the Nisse who are believed to watch over farm animals.

Argentinians decorated their homes with lights and wreaths and hang red and white garlands of flowers on their doors.
Christmas trees are also popular and they are often decorated by December 8 - the feast of the Annunciation, when Christians remember when Mary was told she would have the baby Jesus.
The Nativity scene, or pesebre, is also an important Christmas decoration in Argentina.
Here, the main Christmas meal is eaten during the evening of Christmas Eve.
Popular dishes include roasted turkey, roasted pork, stuffed tomatoes and Christmas bread and puddings like 'Pan Dulce' and Panetone.
People often set off fireworks at midnight and 'toast' the start of Christmas Day.

Christmas comes in the middle of the summer holidays here.
Australians hang wreaths on their front doors and sometimes go carol singing on Christmas Eve.
People also decorate their houses and gardens with Christmas trees and lights.
Australians also decorate their houses with bunches of 'Christmas Bush', a native tree with small green leaves and cream coloured flowers.
When he gets to Australia, Santa gives the reindeer a rest and uses kangaroos or 'six white boomers'.

Christmas in Nigeria is a family event.
Many families will throw Christmas parties that will last all night long on Christmas Eve, then on Christmas Morning, they go to church to give thanks to God.
Homes and streets are often decorated and most homes have artificial Christmas trees.
Nigerians do eat turkey at Christmas.
However, in addition, a traditional Christmas meal may include beef, goat, sheep, ram or chicken.

In Vietnam Christmas Eve is often more important than Christmas Day.
The country used to belong to France and there are still French influences in its Christmas traditions.
For example, like in France, the special Christmas Eve meal is called 'reveillon' and has a 'bûche de Noël' (a chocolate cake in the shape of a log) for desert.
Vietnamese people like to give presents of food and at Christmas a bûche de Noël is a popular gift.
Santa is called Ông già Noel - which translates as Christmas old man. - DailyMirror
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