Filipinos have African blood

International students from over 110 different countries study at the IUBH. During Advent we asked some of them about the Christmas traditions of their home countries.

I'm sitting in autumnal Berlin listening to a few Christmas carols for inspiration for my article on Christmas traditions in the Philippines. Then suddenly I notice the line of a well-known Christmas carol: "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know."

As Philippina, who has spent her entire life in a tropical country, I never got to know a white Christmas. I have never seen white sidewalks and snow-covered trees. I never wore heavy winter clothes, coats or boots. I never felt how cold sub-zero temperatures are. But although we young Philippines, or “kabataan” as we are called in our language, have never seen these things ourselves, we know this magical white Christmas from films and songs by foreign artists, from postcards or in Facebook posts from family and friends. And that has significantly shaped the image of the “perfect Christmas” in the mind of every Filipino.

When I came to Germany, I was really looking forward to this perfect Christmas. In my first few weeks I found the Filipino community here in Berlin. I go to the Catholic Church on Sundays, and since I am very inquisitive about Christmas, I usually bring it up there. All the people I asked answered me with the famous Filipino line Iba pa rin ang Pasko sa Pinas“- that means something like“ Christmas in the Philippines is completely different ”and lets us Filipinos reminisce about the most anticipated festival in our homeland.

The most elaborate Christmas in the world

According to the CNN article "The Philippines shows the world how to celebrate Christmas", Christmas celebrations in the Philippines are the longest and most elaborate in the world. Here you can hear Christmas carols and see Christmas decorations from September 1st to January 9th of the following year.

Christmas trees are decorated, whether green or white, small or large. Santa Claus, Rudolf and the famous elves must of course not be missing to make the atmosphere perfect.

Filipino students working on a Parol.

A decorated home always has one Parol and a Belen. Parol is the Spanish expression for illuminating your home. It represents the star that led the three wise men to Jesus in the manger. A belen is a pictorial representation of the birth of Christ with Joseph and Mary, the three wise men and the animals in the stable at Bethlehem. These decorations can usually be bought anywhere on the street or they are made by students in art class.

During the Christmas season you should always have change for the Philippines Carolers ready to sing Christmas carols in front of every house. They move through the streets in groups with their self-made musical instruments made of laths, cans, bottles or other material with which one can make music. The Carolers can still be children or older citizens who like to sing Christmas carols and collect money for charitable purposes.

Misa De Gallo or Simbang Gabi is a series of nine early morning services from December 16 to 24. Catholics go to church at 4 a.m. in the hope that if they have attended all nine early masses, a wish will come true.

Christmas specialties: purple desserts and cakes made from sweet rice

Many adults are also looking forward to the Christmas season, for whom it is no longer about the gifts, but about the Christmas specialties. The most popular are Puto bumbong and Bibingka. Nobody would go after Simbang Gabi want to go to sleep without having eaten at least one of the two. Puto bumbong is a purple sweet dessert made from sticky rice steamed in bamboo and served with butter and coconut. Bibingka is a sweet rice cake with cheese and salty egg. The smell of this food spreads through all the streets and it is really hard to resist. Other typical Christmas treats are Morcon, Embutido, Crispy Pata, Paella, Pancit Malabon, Leche Flan, Buko and fruit salad.

"Puto Bumbong" and "Bibingka" are typical Filipino Christmas specialties.

When the clock strikes midnight on December 25th, the Noche Buena begins. This is the time for us when we smile and wish everyone “Merry Christmas”, hug and kiss. Then there is Christmas dinner and we open the presents. The children, of course, get the most presents and can finally see their cousins, aunts and uncles and other relatives again whom they haven't seen all year. They also meet their godparents again and hope to be there Aguinaldo or get cash as a gift if you give them that pagmamano have proven. This is synonymous with the tradition of kissing the elderly as a sign of appreciation. The younger one bends over the offered hand of the older one.

A perfect Christmas doesn't need snow

Of course I miss receiving presents during this time. But with all these Filipino Christmas traditions, as soon as the "-ber" months (September to December) begin, I remember that this is the time of togetherness. It is the time when you feel loved, whether you are with your family, friends or other people. It's the time when you get warm smiles, tight hugs, and sincere kisses. It is the time when everything comes to a standstill and the whole country celebrates together, regardless of social status, educational qualification or occupation. And for me, that's better than seeing white sidewalks and snow-covered trees or wearing heavy winter clothes, coats and boots. This will always be my perfect Christmas.