This is Part 2 of a guest post by Johanna Castro: Click here to read Part 1
It’s been said that The Philippines was once a convent, but that it was converted to Hollywood, and no more is this true than at Christmas when lights flash and sparkle from rooftops and houses and palm trees, as if they belong to a movie set.
Santa Claus won’t find any chimneys to go down at Christmas because it never gets cold enough for a log fire. Obviously there is no snow, and there are palm rather than pine trees, but that doesn’t mean the country is short on Christmas traditions.
One of my favourites is the tradition of the parol.
The Star of Bethlehem
Parols, or star lanterns represent the Star of Bethlehem. These lanterns are a little like giant kaleidoscopes and they sparkle and flash from houses, shrubs, doors, hotels, shops and skyscrapers. Some are gigantic but even the most humble dwellings will generally display a home-made parol.
We had one that we’d put up every year in our garden, much to the delight of our children who would beg us to take them out at night to watch it change colour, and then we’d have to walk and view all the other Christmas decorations and parols in the suburb.
The Nativity Scene
I used to love searching for Christmas decorations each year, not only at the city stores but at the markets, and another important religious icon we bought we still have today – it’s a tableau depicting the Nativity scene, or the belen, meaning Bethlehem in Spanish.
Christmas really arrives on Christmas eve when mass is held at church, after which families celebrate at home with Noche Buena, the good night feast, and this is the time when Christmas gifts will be given.
Outlying islands, like Puerto Galera below, one of our favourites, may not be necessarily Christmassy on the beaches, but in the villages it will be another matter altogether.
For many Filipinos Christmas is a time of rebirth and renewal.
This year, my thoughts are with all those affected by Typhoon Haiyan, and I truly hope that as devastatingly sad as this time has been that Christmas will bring hope into the hearts of all those who have suffered or are still suffering.
We were very good friends with a very special woman who set up a foundation to help the youth of the Philippines and this organization is called The Springboard Foundation Springboard is currently supplying supplies and resources to those who have been affected by the typhoon, and I encourage anybody to donate, however small an amount.
Thank you so much for reading Christmas in the Philippines, if you would like to read more, please pop back to Part 1 in this series.
But now, I think it’s time to wish you …
Maligayang Pasko – Merry Christmas!
Bio: Johanna Castro is a travel writer and managing editor of two blogs. Her “Travel Blog ZigaZag” inspires people to “Live for the Moment, Love Adventure and Do Something Awesome,” and “Lifestyle Fifty” is for fun, feisty, funky women of a certain age. To learn more about Blogging download her free E-book “ How to Be a Well Fed Blogger” by signing up for her Newsletter Jo’s written for 40+ print, and around 20 online publications, has self published a children’s novel in support of an orphanage in The Philippines, lived in 11 different countries, is married to a geologist and has two well traveled, grown up children.