Monday, December 15, 2014

Day 10: Philippines

From the cold of Russia to the warm tropics, we're visiting the Philippines to learn how they celebrate Christmas. Did you know that the Philippines celebrate Christmas over four months? They start celebrating as soon as the "ber" months start, in September. They keep celebrating until the middle of January, so the Philippines' celebration of Christmas is the longest in the world. In Tagalog (the language spoken most often in the Philippines) "Merry Christmas" is Maligayang Pasko.

Palawan Island, Philippines 
Christmas is a big holiday in the Philippines because the country is mostly Christian-in fact, it's the only Asian country with so many Jesus followers (around 80% or more are Catholic). The ways people celebrate are a mixture between American traditions and native Filipino traditions, so many people have a Christmas tree, sing Christmas carols, write Christmas cards and have Santa Claus deliver presents.

A parol
They also often attend nine masses called simbang gabi (or "night worship") beginning December 16th until Christmas Eve. These masses are often early in the morning and then people have breakfast together afterwards. But they also have their own traditions like the parol, or a lighted star lantern. It's often made from bamboo strips and colored paper or cellophane. The parol represents the star that guided the wise men to Jesus, and it's one of the most popular Christmas decorations.

Christmas Eve is very important, and many people stay awake all night. Christians go to church to hear the last simbang gabi (Christmas Eve mass). After the service they eat a midnight feast called Noche Buena. This sounds quite a bit like Spanish, and there are actually quite a few Spanish words used in Tagalog. This is because for many years Spain ruled the Philippines, so parts of the Spanish language are still used.


The Noche Buena is a big, open house celebration with family, friends, and neighbors dropping to wish everyone Maligayang Pasko. They eat foods like lechon (roasted pig), ham, fruit salad, steamed rice and sweets. They also drink salabat, a ginger tea, and eat bibingka, a traditional treat that is a thick yellow rice cake.

Fun Facts: 
*In the Philippines, people replace the words, "Happy Birthday" with Maligayang Pasko and sing it to the tune of the traditional happy birthday song.

*On Christmas Eve, people act out Joseph and Mary's search for a place to stay. It's called panunuluyan, and it's similar to the Mexican posadas.

Make your own parol!
Parols are beautiful star decorations that light up, and they're seen in many Filipino houses or stores as part of their Christmas decorations. They're usually big and bright, but here are steps for a smaller, simpler one.

*Popsicle sticks or cardboard
*Colored tissue paper

1. Glue your popsicle sticks together in the shape of a typical star.
2. Now add your tissue paper. You can either make it all the same color, or you can make every part of the star a different color. Glue the tissue paper in place however you wish it to look. Now you can hang it on your tree, above your fireplace, or by a window.

All of the above information has been taken from the Wycliffe-created characters, Kate and Mack. To sign up for more children's activities or find out about the book these characters feature in (Around the World with Kate and Mack), click on this link:

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