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Christmas Day is an annual holiday celebrated on December 25th that commemorates the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.
Modern customs of the holiday include gift-giving, Church celebrations, and the display of various decorations—like Christmas trees, Christmas lights, mistletoe, nativity scenes, and holly. In gift giving, we remind ourselves of the importance of selfless act, which is the foundation upon which we build trust, friendship and love. In receiving a gift, we are reminded of the practicality of the wisdom the more we give the more we receive.
Christmas in the Philippines is one of the biggest holidays on the calendar. Philippines has earned the distinction of celebrating the world's longest Christmas season. The Filipino Christmas would not be complete without the traditional Philippine Christmas symbols and decorations. As early as September, people would start putting up Christmas trees and decorations. They adorn their homes with "lanterns" or "parol", Christmas lights, and the most traditional symbol - the Belen or creche. Caroling is also a natural activity. Children in small groups would go from house to house singing Christmas carols and wait expectantly for their rewards - mostly coins. Young and old would also go caroling and partake of the earnings and some donate them to their chosen charity.
Traditionally, Christmas in the Philippines is ushered by Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo, a nine-dawn novena which begins on December 16 as early as 4:00 in the morning and culminates with the "Misa de Aguinaldo" on Christmas Eve to welcome the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. It is a significant moment because not only it strengthens relationships among family members but also because it is the time where our faith is intensified. This is the time where we mostly feel the presence of the Lord because it is the spiritual preparation for Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ. Completing this novena is believed to mean that God would grant the devotee's wishes. In some churches, the Panuluyan is reenacted showing the effort of Joseph and Mary to find a suitable birthplace.
After hearing the Mass, families partake of traditional delicacies served on Christmas that are commonly sold outside the church. Vendors offer a wealth of native delicacies including bibingka or rice cake topped with shredded coconut or slices of kesong puti (white cheese) and itlog na maalat (salted duck eggs)), puto bumbong (a rice delicacy made from purple-colored ground rice cooked in bamboo tubes that are placed on a special steamer-cooker and sprinkled with brown sugar and shredded coconut), salabat (hot ginger tea) and tsokolate (thick Spanish cocoa).
On Christmas Eve or Bisperas ng Pasko family members dine together on traditional Noche Buena and would exchange gifts. Others would stay in the park and watch fireworks display.
A typical Christmas Day in the Philippines is primarily a family affair. The whole family usually attends the Misa de Aguinaldo. Family members would visit other relatives and friends. Some would share Christmas lunch and exchange gifts after and others attend Christmas parties. Though not every family could afford to have a grand and glorious feast during Christmas, just feeling the spirit of Christmas with the whole family brings joy and peace in one's heart.