Christmas is coming to town

Toot! Toot! Tooooot! Make way... CHRISTMAS is coming to town! The start of December marks the the start of the Holiday Season. It's roughly 14 days before Christmas. For hundreds of millions of people around the world, Christmas is the biggest holiday of the year. Public seem to be at their best during the season. Everyone begins to make plans, trying to organize their Christmas parties and family affairs.

Christmas in the Philippines is a Christian Holiday for most Filipinos because Philippines is dominantly a Catholic Country.

As a child I can remember my siblings and I getting up during the wee hours of the morning. My parents would wake us up to attend the "Simbang Gabi" (Night Mass). The Mass usually starts at four in the morning. At that time, I wouldn't deny that I would often fall asleep during the Holy Mass.

Simbang Gabi starts on December 16 and ends on the 24th of the month. Some believe that when you complete the nine-day consecutive masses, you will obtain special graces or your wishes will be granted.

After hearing masses, we have some local delicacies that are often sold by street vendors near the church.

Who can't resist the steaming "Puto Bumbong". It's a purple sticky rice cooked in tubes that are placed on a special steamer. When cooked they are removed from the tubes, topped with butter, and sprinkled with sugar and grated coconut. They are then wrapped in banana leaves which keeps them warm and moist.

and yummy Bibingka. A rice and egg based caked topped with a spread of butter, slices of kesong puti (white cheese), and itlog na maalat (salted duck eggs) together with grated coconut.

We do have Christmas decors like the Parol (Lantern). Parol are traditionally made out of bamboo and paper. It is usually star shaped, and is thought of to symbolize the star of Bethlehem.

The elaborate ones are made from capiz shells with mini light bulbs inside .

And Belen (creche). A representation of Christ's Nativity in the stable at Bethlehem.

We have the traditional Christmas Carols sung by children going from house to house. After singing, often you'll hear the familiar words "Namamasko Po!" (asking gifts). And if you gave them something in return like money or candies, they'll sing "Thank You, Thank You, Ang Babait ninyo (you're so kind), Thank You!" During my childhood days, I used to do this with my friends. And after our caroling, we divide the money and candies that we collected. heheh... it was really fun! Oh, I miss those good old days.

Here are some of the Christmas Carols:

Sa maybahay ang aming bati,
Merry Christmas na maluwalhati!
Ang Pag-ibig ang siyang naghari
Arar-araw ay magiging paskong lagi!

Ang sanhi po ng pagparito,
Hihingi po ng aginaldo,
Kung sakali't kami'y perhuwisyo
Pasensiya na kayo kami'y namamasko!

Kay Sigla ng Gabi

Kay sigla ng gabi, ang lahat ay kay saya!
Nagluto ang ate na manok na tinola,
Sa bahay ng kuyaay mayroong litsonan pa!
Ang lahat ay may handang iba't iba.

Tayo na giliw, magsalo na tayo!
Meron na tayong tinapay at keso.
Di ba Noche Buena sa gabing ito,
At bukas ay araw ng Pasko!

We also have the much-anticipated Noche Buena (Christmas Eve), Christmas Day, the exchanging of gifts and the "Bisperas ng Bagong Taon" (New Year's Eve) being celebrated and the time of the year in which the whole family gets together.

These are the things that I always look forward to during the holidays.

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AN ASIAN TRAVELER, Exploring Around Asia!