On our first Christmas away from the Philippines twenty years ago, I worried about where to hang my ‘parol’ (star lantern), a small version made of capiz, which had been carefully packed in my suitcase. I brought it to America along with my ‘belen’ (nativity set), both essential décor for the holidays in most Filipino homes.
Near or far from our home roots, it is the traditions we grew up with that keep us grounded. Without these traditions, Christmas would just be another calendar day.
One of the things that makes our Filipino Christmas unique is the food we serve. The holiday season brings out the best in our cuisine. It is also the season when we bring out the best on our tables. The feasts we prepare are unparalleled. From the barrios to the plush enclaves, to across the world in America, Europe, the Middle East and beyond, Filipinos look forward to the festivities for Noche Buena (Christmas eve dinner), Christmas day leading all the way to New Year’s day.
What makes Christmas in the Philippines unique? We are the only country that celebrates Christmas the longest from September to January. Once September sets in, carols are heard and decorations go up.
I asked friends around the country and the world to tell me what they’re all having for Christmas. The traditional answers came from around the globe. There was no hesitation. One thing was certain. We all had Filipino food on our Christmas table.
First photo : traditional bibingka, the Filipino rice cake from Purple Yam Restaurant in Brooklyn, NYC.
Second photo: Chicken Gallantina, stuffed boneless chicken filled with scrumptious ingredients and seasonings is a staple. Thank you to Poch Jorolan of Outereaters Events in Pampanga for sharing this.
In Pampanga, among the many holiday treats is the ‘saniculas’ or Pan de San Nicolas. This one was baked by Atching Lillian Borromeo.
In Cavite, the tamales from Robinson’s are a favorite.
Here in our American home, no matter how much snow we have on the ground, we will always have Filipino food on our Christmas table.