Christmas is Filipinos’ best-loved celebration. Star-shaped lanterns, called parols in the Filipino language Tagalog, signal the start of the Christmas season in the Philippines. As early as September, these five-pointed representations of the star of Bethlehem begin lighting up neighborhoods. Why so early? Filipinos associate the months’ suffix ber with Christmas, so September, October, November, and December are all considered holiday months.
Parols, the Filipino counterpart of Mexican piñatas, are beacons of hospitality hung outside doors and windows, so the cheerful light brightens the evenings and welcomes visitors. Originally the parols were used to light the way to the Misa de Gallo or the Mass of the Rooster, which is held early in the morning on Christmas Day, before the roosters crow.
Framed with bamboo or rattan, the lanterns’ sides are made of translucent rice paper, tissue, or colorful cellophane. To make a lantern, string together five long pieces of bamboo to form a star; make a second star. Place five twigs or small pieces of bamboo between the two stars, so that they bow apart but are joined at the points. Apply glue to the bamboo frame and cover with tissue. Tradition calls for a candle, but to be safe place a flashlight inside the lantern.
To prepare for the holiday, many people begin a novena on December 16, known as Misa de Aguinaldo. They attend nine consecutive days of outdoor masses held as early as four o'clock in the morning. After each mass, Filipinos gather for the traditional almusal or breakfast: salabat, local ginger tea, and bibingka or flat cakes served on banana leaves and topped with brown sugar and freshly grated coconut.
Breakfast for Four
(Misa de Gallo Almusal)
Experiment with only the traditional Bibingka and Salabat for a quick breakfast, or try all the recipes for an unforgettable Filipino holiday brunch. For a larger group, double the recipes!
Pan de Sal Fresh Breakfast Rolls
Tortang Talong Eggplant Omelet
Adobong Manok Chicken Adobo
Mango Papaya Fruit Salad
Bibingka Flat Cake
Champorrado Chocolate Rice Porridge
Salabat Ginger Tea
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.