When most people think of the Philippines, they picture long stretches of white sand beaches. This is not wrong. The Philippines is one of the world’s most beautiful tropical paradises. However, they also have a long history of going all out for Christmas. Their love for the holiday doesn’t come from Coca Cola’s Santa but their deep religious backgrounds. One of their most unique traditions are their colorful Christmas lanterns.
” The southeast Asian island nation has the world’s longest festive season — and pulls no punches in its celebratory zeal for the period, with lavish light displays, masses, and festivals held throughout the country from September until January. “CNN
These Christmas lanterns from the Philippines are known as ‘parols’ and they were created in 1928 by Francisco Estanislao. Their main purpose at the time was to help villagers find their way to churches so they could pray. Filipinos have always been very religious. Even today, 90% of Filipinos are Christian and 80% of those are Catholic.
“The parols are as important to Filipinos as the Christmas tree to Western culture — without parols Christmas wouldn’t be complete.”CNN
While the lanterns were originally made with paper and bamboo, today they glow with electronic lights. Their purpose, however, remains the same. They are a guiding light in the darkness for those wanting to come together and pray.
More than Just Lanterns
Christmas lanterns are not the only holiday tradition in the Philippines. Filipinos are Christmas obsessed in many ways, from the length of celebration to the lanterns and overwhelming lights that decorate the entire country. They even spend a tremendous amount of time and money on gigantic Christmas trees.
In the West you can go to any store and bring home a beautiful tree. Or if you are a lumberjack you can get one directly from the forest. However, pine trees are not indigenous to the Philippines. But instead of decorating palm trees, the Filipinos are determined to be traditional.
During the month of December, I hope to share holiday traditions from all over the world. Stay tuned for more Christmas stories!