If you're in Manila around Christmas you can enjoy all of the lights and decorations around the city. Or for the more spiritually inclined there are an abundance of masses to attend. Starting on December 16th is the Simbang Gabi (Night Mass) which last for nine days and start as early as 4am. Usually after these masses, Filipinos sit down to a big breakfast and there are also numerous vendors outside churches selling foods such as bibingka (rice flour and egg-based cake, cooked using coal burners on top of and under the pastry), putò bumbóng (a purple, sticky rice delicacy steamed in bamboo tubes, with brown sugar and shredded dried coconut meat served as condiments), salabát (hot ginger tea) and tsokoláte (thick Spanish cocoa).
Christmas in the Philippines
A Christmas Tree made from coconuts in the Coconut Palace
Being one of the two Catholic countries in Asia, the Philippines celebrates Christmas like no other country in the region. Christmas actually starts here in September and lasts until the Feast of Epiphany which is in January. With this extraordinarily long Christmas season there are numerous events around the country which the Christmas loving traveller can witness.
I had been told about Christmas in the Philippines being the longest in the world, however I was not able to comprehend how big Christmas is in this country until September 2008. Walking through the malls of Manila or down the main roads of the different cities, Christmas was everywhere. In a tropical country with a dearth of pine trees and no snow it was quite strange to be sitting in Starbucks drinking a coffee in early September to the sounds of Frosty the Snowman, I'm dreaming of a White Christmas, or Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire. I was recently travelling in Batanes in what was possibly the only van on Sabtang Island with Christmas tunes playing as well. The song switched from Jingle Bells to a reggae sounding guy saying "Christmas in the Philippines." Then it went into "Shalalalala, Shalala in the morning." And even more bizarre is that in October all of the Christmas decorations come down for a week while the Halloween ones go up. But right after Halloween everything goes back to Christmas.
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