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Friday, December 20, 2013

Maligayang Pasko! a Filipino Christmas

"Maligayang Pasko!" 
Merry Christmas, Filipino style!
Christmas season is in full swing! It's such a perfect time to inject some familial heritage into the festivities, and keep Mag tapped into her roots between visits with Kam's side of the family.

Of course, to truly embrace Christmas, Filipino style, we're about 3 months behind! Yep, that's right: in Philippines, the Christmas season encompasses the final FOUR months of the year! My Midwestern tendency, upon hearing this, is to imagine the cause is the shorter days/longer nights of the season. But we can't forget that, being so near the equator, the duration of daylight in the Philippine Islands varies by only about an hour between the longest night of the year and the shortest night of the year.

So why do they do it, then, if not to escape the darkness of the long nights of the season? No one in the family has any idea... but is sure sounds fun!

Well, here in the good ole U.S. of A., we can't incorporate a 4-month celebration into our current lifestyle. But our family has managed to enjoy some of Kam's fondest memories of childhood Christmases in Philippines, beginning with PAROL, or Christmas lanterns, which seem to be popping up everywhere this year (like here and here).

photo attribution: Keith Bacongo

In Philippines, these Christmas lanterns can be small and simple, or enormous and elaborate. We made a paper version that children grow up making at home. Since Kam couldn't quite recall the how-to of homemade parol all these decades later, we followed these very user-friendly youtube directions to recreate the memories.

We made it into a family project, each person working on one "arm" of the star, with good results!

Of course, no self-respecting Filipino celebration would be complete without a FEAST! Traditionally, lechon (a whole roasted pig) would be served.

photo attribution: Arcade
Since we had just had lechon at Thanksgiving, we went a little more low key for our pre-Christmas Filipino feast. Our local Filipino grocer supplied beef and chicken empanadas (my fave!) and puto (steamed rice mini cakes). We made an enchilada-esque dish that was Kam's mom's recipe, and the pièce de résistance: BIBINGKA!

photo attribution: Roberto Verzo
Bibingka is a Filipino Christmas cake, made with rice flour and coconut milk. It can be baked directly in a ceramic baking dish, or baked in a dish lined with banana leaves. Because this was our first time making binbingka, we decided to go all in, and baked in the leaves. We combined elements of each of these three recipes (one, two, three), to come up with this version:

(click recipe for printable pdf version)

I hope you enjoyed this little peak into Christmas in Philippines. We had such a wonderful time celebrating Kam's roots this week that we are planning to incorporate more traditions into our festivities on Christmas day!

Wherever you are, and however you're celebrating, I hope it is just as joyous! Merry Christmas!

Love learning about "Christmas in Different Lands"? Head to the Multicultural Kid Blogs world tour... so many fun traditions, so little time!


  1. Oh, I learned a lot from this post! Your children are lucky to be able to try these amazing dishes. I think our retailers would love 4 months of Christmas season :)

  2. How fun! I agree, 4 months of Christmas would be a big hit with kids anywhere! I suspect the tradition has to do with the heritage of Spanish Catholicism, since Christmas is also a long festival in Latin America. In Costa Rica, also near the equator, it coincides with summer break, which makes extended celebrations easier! Wow, bibingka looks AMAZING! I am definitely going to give it a try! Thanks for sharing all these traditions!

  3. How fun! I don't think I would mind four months of Christmas...

  4. Great post! We are running a Christmas photo challenge at the moment by which we hope to gather photos and descriptions of Christmas traditions from all around the world. If you'd like to participate, write a couple of sentences about Christmas in the Philippines, send us a photo to represent it and we will publish the best entries on our blog with a link to your site. Sounds good? :) Here you will find more details: http://hitchhikershandbook.com/2013/12/21/christmas-traditions-around-the-world-photo-challenge/
    Merry Christmas and a happy New Year! :)

  5. Such fun! The Christmas lanterns are gorgeous, and the bibingka sounds tasty! Thanks for sharing the recipe!