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A Filipino Christmas: Traditions then & now

(PIA, QUEZON CITY) -- Filipinos celebrate the longest Christmas season, the earliest, it starts in September – decorations are put up, Christmas lists are starting to fill up, and Christmas songs are heard everywhere. The holiday breeze kicks in as soon as the Christmas bells ring and the choirs sing. It ends whenever the parties and gift-giving are over. 

For as long as I can remember, Filipinos are very much into Christmas and a lot of traditions are still practiced up until today. Even though the pandemic hit hard in the Philippines, Filipinos had enough resilience and optimism to celebrate. 

This year as the restrictions started to loosen and things began to go back to normal, these traditions are still alive, however, Filipinos sought alternatives to make things safer and more convenient to keep the usual celebrations. 

“Namamasko po!” 

These words are often heard during Christmas, this phrase is used to imply that you are asking another person for a “pamasko” which is either a gift or money. In the province, it is normal for kids to go from one house to another to get their gifts from their ninong and ninang (godparents), wrapped in colorful papers or sealed inside an ampaw. Kids kiss their godparents’ hands first before receiving the much-awaited aguinaldo. 

Carolers also say this phrase after their Christmas caroling. 

Today, gift-giving is still practiced. Big or small, Filipinos find ways to give something to their loved ones, family, friends, and colleagues. But unlike before when you have to find time to meet people at your home, almost everything now is online. GCash or any online wallet, and the use of QR Codes are the most convenient way to give and receive a cash gift.  

Also, the way people choose their gifts is also easier, there are a lot of items available online. Instead of being stuck in traffic due to the Christmas rush and being tired from walking the whole time at the mall, people place their purchases online and have them delivered in the comfort of their own homes. Making it almost 10x more efficient especially for busy bees. 

PIA Director General Ramon Lee Cualoping during the PIA donation drive
PIA Donations

Noche Buena

Another Christmas tradition is the gathering around the dinner table when the clock strikes midnight on December 24. Filipinos always ensure they have at least a dish on their tables during Christmas. Despite the rising prices of food products, people are still flocking to supermarkets to stock up on their pantries for Christmas salo-salo.

But others have their own plans. Ever since the pandemic hit, food delivery has been popular, it was also a chance for local entrepreneurs to be popular. Grab Food, Food Panda, and other local delivery applications have a lot to offer. They cater to a wide range of options allowing everyone to enjoy potluck Noche Buenas. 

Another great way to be free from the rush during Christmas and sometimes if you are into numbers, having your food prepared by others and delivered to your doorstep is a bit more cost-effective than having it homemade especially if you are celebrating Christmas alone or just with a few people. 

But at the end of the day, Filipinos love to celebrate and they can still find ways to enjoy a scrumptious Noche Buena. 

Family Reunions

Because Filipinos love to gather and celebrate, family reunions are common during the holiday season. It is their way to catch up with family members who came from abroad or have been away from home for quite a while. Similar to Filipino households, companies also find ways to gather workers and give them a break from the everyday workload. There are often raffle prizes, Christmas presentations, and exchange of gifts. 

However, the pandemic halted these gatherings for a while but it is making a comeback this year. There are parties here and there, tons of gifts to be wrapped, and a full-packed schedule during the Christmas week. 

Christmas rush is evident on the roads and inside shopping malls but at the end of the day it feels fulfilling for those who spend their time and money picking gifts for their loved ones. 

It was quite a year for the Filipinos, a year of adjustments and changes but during this holiday season, it is seen that the Pinoy Christmas tradition is still alive. The spirit is there and one thing is for sure Filipinos will celebrate Christmas in their own little way. (MVV, PIA-CPSD) 

About the Author

Maria Viktoria Viado

Information Officer

Central Office

Information Officer I

Creative Production Services Division

Philippine Information Agency

Visayas Ave., Diliman, Quezon City 

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