Christmas in the Philippines

Christmas in the Philippines

Ever considered celebrating Christmas in the Philippines? In this country of more than 100 million people, the holiday season isn’t just a day; it’s a four-month-long celebration that kicks off in September, known locally as the “ber” months. With carols echoing through the streets, vibrant lanterns being crafted, and gifts adorning store shelves, Christmas spirit engulfs the nation. To answer the question asked by many: Yes, they celebrate Christmas in the Philippines, and they do so with unparalleled enthusiasm.

Christmas in the Philippines

Christmas in the Philippines

The extended celebration isn’t just a testament to the predominantly Christian population (90%, with 80% being Catholic), but it’s also a reflection of the Filipinos’ love for shopping and the festive atmosphere. The festivities officially begin on December 16 with pre-dawn Christmas masses known as “Misa de Gallo” or “Simbang Gabi,” which originated from Spanish missionaries in the 17th century. The celebrations reach their peak on Christmas Day, followed by a grand midnight feast called “Noche Buena,” and continue until the first Sunday in January with the Feast of Three Kings.

Unique Christmas Traditions

Filipino Christmas traditions are a rich tapestry of Western and Spanish influences, creating a unique blend that captures the essence of the nation’s cultural diversity.

Parols - Christmas in the Philippines

Parols in the Philippines

Build a Belen: The nativity scene, or Belen, is a central part of Filipino Christmas. Elaborate sets featuring the Holy Family, Three Kings, angels, and twinkling lights are crafted, adding a touch of artistic expression to the celebrations.

Parols: These brightly lit stars, or Parols, not only illuminate the streets but symbolize the way to Simbang Gabi. Originally designed for this purpose, they have become a ubiquitous part of Filipino Christmas decorations.

Simbang Gabi: Nine days of late-night masses leading up to Christmas Eve, with the final one held in the early hours of Christmas Day, capturing the spiritual essence of the season.

Manito-Manita: Gift-giving takes a playful turn as gifts are presented to everyone, and the recipient has to guess the contents before singing the “I Love My Manita/Manito Yes I Do” song.

Red Envelope or Ang Pao: Aunts and grandparents gift money in specially designed red or blue envelopes known as “ang pao,” with the blue ones being particularly coveted.

Coming Home for Christmas: As many Filipinos work abroad to support their families, Christmas becomes a precious time for reunions, making it a season of homecomings.

Carolling: Humorous carols, often featuring homemade costumes and recycled instruments, spread joy and laughter throughout the festive season.

Misa de Gallo: The climax of the nine midnight masses, with lights, candles, projectors, and sometimes a re-enactment of the Nativity. Attending all nine masses is believed to grant a wish.

Noche Buena: The Christmas Eve feast, a lavish affair that marks the culmination of the season, with both the preparation and consumption being integral to the tradition.

Feast of the Three Kings: The final celebration on January 6, honoring the wise men who visited Jesus in the manger.

Traditional Filipino Christmas Food



The Filipino Christmas table is a feast for the senses, featuring a diverse array of dishes prepared with love and shared with family. Some favorites include:

Lechon: Slow-roasted pig with crispy crackling, stuffed with a flavorful medley of peppers, pineapple, chilies, ginger, and lemongrass.

Bibingka: A sweet and sticky coconut rice cake, often served by street vendors, cooked in a clay pot and eaten by hand.

Pinoy-style Spaghetti: Sweet-style noodles with hotdogs and ground beef, smothered in a sauce made from banana ketchup, sugar, and tomato paste.

Embutido: A ground pork meatloaf with veggies, cheese, and raisins, often stuffed with hard-boiled eggs, ham, and hot dogs.

Lumpiang Ubod: Filipino spring rolls stuffed with shrimp, heart-of-palm, veggies, coconut, and pork, served with various dipping sauces.

Buko Salad: A sweet fruit salad with shredded coconut, various fruits, jelly, sweets, tapioca, and sugar palm, topped with condensed milk and cream.

Leche Flan: A creamy caramel dessert made with cooked condensed milk and caramel, served chilled.

Puto Bumbong

Puto Bumbong

Puto Bumbong: A purple-colored rice cake served for Noche Buena, made with steamed glutinous rice, butter, grated coconut, and brown sugar, wrapped in banana leaves.

Christmas Gifts in the Philippines

Gift-giving in the Philippines is an art form, starting as early as November. The most popular gifts are clothing and footwear, both designer and more humble brands. However, the act of giving is not just about exchanging presents; it’s a moment filled with love, humor, and happiness.

As the Christmas season unfolds in the Philippines, it becomes a magical time where traditions, food, and the spirit of giving come together to create a unique celebration that truly reflects the warmth and hospitality of the Filipino people.

Christmas traditions across continents

Celebrating Christmas in Europe

Christmas in Austria

Christmas in Japan

Christmas around the world

Latest travel articles