Having the longest Christmas celebration in the world, Filipinos really know how to make the most of this wonderful time of the year. From the back-to-back parties to the colorful parades, Filipino Christmas traditions are something anyone should experience. You know what they say about the holiday season in the country—it’s more fun in the Philippines!
Unique Christmas Traditions in the Philippines
Food trips are always part of the Filipino family Christmas tradition but there are far more things people don’t know about holiday celebrations in the country. Let’s get to know the Filipino Christmas culture even more.
- Asan (Fish Lantern) – San Fernando, Pampanga
- Kapayvidividi – Batanes
- Giant Lantern Festival – San Fernando, Pampanga
- Majiggaga (Giant Puppet) – Sta. Ana, Pampanga
- Christmas Symbol Festival – Tangub City
- Maytinis Festival – Kawit, Cavite
- Lantern Parade – Baguio City
- UST Paskuhan – Manila
What’s inside this blog?
- Unique Christmas Traditions in the Philippines
- Frequently Asked Questions About Filipino Christmas Traditions
1. Asan (Fish Lantern) – San Fernando, Pampanga
Before becoming popular for the star giant lanterns, Pampanga was known for their fish-shaped giant lanterns called Asan. It started in the 1830s when the Asan was paraded during the Lubenas or the procession before the simbang gabi, along with a cross-shaped lantern and 12 other lanterns. They used the fish as the shape of the lantern as it symbolizes Jesus Christ and prosperity. To this day, some Kapampangans still make fish lanterns to preserve this Filipino Christmas tradition in Pampanga.
2. Kapayvidividi – Batanes
Photo credits to Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception – Batanes
Just when you thought Batanes’ breathtaking views will amaze you enough, wait until you hear about the Kapayvidividi. It is the Ivatans’ yearly tradition held on Christmas Day, New year’s Day, and the first Sunday of January. Sacristans, a group of choir, and a long train of devotees bring the image of the Infant Jesus to every Catholic house on Batan island. The family of the house will then kiss the image of Santo Nino.
Another unique Filipino Christmas culture in Batanes is the boys who beat drums to awaken Batanes for the dawn mass. Drummers roam around streets making loud noises with their drums. Talk about unique Filipino Christmas traditions and customs.
3. Giant Lantern Festival – San Fernando, Pampanga
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons
Aside from the Philippines Christmas tree, part of the traditional Filipino Christmas decorations are the lanterns. Parol, as Filipinos call it, makes Christmas celebration in the Philippines more colorful.
San Fernando, Pampanga is not dubbed as the Christmas Capital of the Philippines for nothing. The city is reputable for its giant colorful lanterns handcrafted with love by the local artisans. These giant lanterns are not just popular in the country but across the world.
4. Majigangga (Giant Puppet) – Sta. Ana, Pampanga
Photo credits to Municipality of Santa Ana Pampanga Tourism & Information Office
Majigangga is one of the most unique Christmas traditions in the Philippines. Coming from the Kapampangan word that means giant, Majigangga is an event in Sta. Ana, Pampanga similar to Higantes Festival of Angono, Rizal.
The giant puppets stand at about 10-feet tall. During this Filipino Christmas tradition, they dance along the streets of Santa Ana during the lubenas or lantern processions, and on New Year’s Eve up to the feast of the Three Kings.
5. Christmas Symbol Festival – Tangub City
Photo credits to City Government of Tangub
Everyone knows Christmas celebrations in the Philippines starts as early as September. But do you know that Christmas Symbols Festival is the longest-running Christmas festival in the country?
Every December, Tangub City lights up as the place is illuminated by various traditional Filipino Christmas decorations like lanterns, Filipino Christmas tree decorations, and replicas of iconic landmarks from around the world. Part of the Christmas traditions in the Philippines is traveling to different places but in Tangub City, you can experience many popular tourist spots from across the world without leaving the Philippines.
6. Maytinis Festival – Kawit, Cavite
Maytinis Festival is a well-loved Filipino holiday tradition in Kawit, Cavite. It is a dramatic retelling of “Panunuluyan”, a Filipino Christmas culture, where the Virgin Mary and Joseph’s search in Bethlehem for a place to stay.
This reenactment takes place on the streets of Kawit featuring the Parade of Floats. The participants of Panunuluyan visit several houses and sing until they reach the 300-year-old St. Mary Magdalene Church of Kawit.
7. Lantern Parade – Baguio City
Photo credits to Baguio City Guide
Traveling to Baguio during the holidays has long been a Filipino family Christmas tradition. So in case you’re also one of those people driving up north for some cool breeze, Lantern Parade in Baguio is one of the things you shouldn’t miss.
Every Christmas season, locals and even tourists look forward to the grand lantern parade that features stunning traditional Filipino parols. Groups from schools, colleges, and universities across Baguio participate in the event and showcase their own lanterns. The one with the most creative output wins the competition.
8. UST Paskuhan – Manila
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons
If you’re a graduate or studying from one of the schools in the University belt (U-Belt) in Manila, chances are, you’ve heard of the annual Paskuhan at the University of Santo Tomas. The event is one of the most awaited Christmas celebrations in the Philippines. During this month-long festivity, UST Paskuhan features several mini-concerts, games, and more. That’s why students have made it an official Filipino holiday tradition to attend paskuhan.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Filipino Christmas Traditions
Q: What are the 10 unique Christmas traditions in the Philippines?
A: Here’s a list of the 10 unique Christmas traditions in the Philippines:
- Completing the 9-day simbang gabi
- Decorating houses with traditional Filipino Christmas decorations
- Family gatherings at noche buena
- Indulging on Christmas food like bibingka and puto bumbong
- Caroling from house to house
- Attending Misa de Gallo on Christmas Eve
- Adorning Philippines Christmas trees with unique ornaments
- Kids visiting godparents’ houses
Q: What are the Filipino noche buena traditions?
A: Noche Buena is one of the Filipino Christmas traditions celebrated with the family every December 24. Here are some of the Filipino noche buena traditions:
- Preparing sweet and sticky food
- Family reunions
- Party games
- Exchange gifts
- Attending Misa de Gallo
Q: When is the midnight mass Philippines?
A: The midnight mass Philippines schedule depends on the area but traditionally, simbanag gabi is held from December 16 to December 24.
Q: What are the Philippines holiday traditions for New Year?
A: Here are the different Philippines holiday traditions for New Year:
- Media Noche
- Wearing polka dots
- Jumping high at 12 midnight
- Making loud noises. A lot of it
- Preparing 12 round fruits for good luck
- Eating pancit for long life
- Eating sticky rice cakes
- Preparing whole pork
- Preparing whole grilled fish
- Opening windows and doors
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