It’s but 20 days until Santa comes shimmying down every chimney top to bring a special little present for every hopeful little boy or girl in the world. By this time, the bells are ringing, children singing, and all is merry and bright. (10 cookies to whoever can guess what song that’s from without having to Google it)
Back home in Manila where this holiday is celebrated more than any other, besides ringing bells, singing children, and everyone being merrier and brighter than usual, I bet the parols are lit, hundreds of pigs are ready to become lechon, tables are set up for several rounds of mahjong or bingo all over town, all adding up to the festive mood.
For Pinoys, there’s nothing like Christmas in Manila. Why? Here we list a three (very) good reasons.
3. Simbang Gabi
This tradition has been around for as long as I can remember. It’s a 9-day novena that starts on the 16th of December and ends on Christmas eve. Hordes of Pinoys come flocking to church at ungodly hours (usually at 3am) to pay tribute to the birth of Jesus.
Food stalls are usually set up outside churches, serving bibingka fresh off the oven, puto bumbong (I’m salivating just thinking about this glutinous, purple, buttery source of sinful but oh-so-worth-it happiness), puto, kutsinta, pancit, and many other delicious Pinoy nomz. Besides the mass, the Simbang Gabi has also become a way for people to come together and have a chance to bond over food and cheer.
2. Noche Buena
Christmas usually starts with everybody attending the Misa de Gallo or Christmas eve mass. After which, the whole family gathers to welcome Christmas with bountiful nomz and drink (and presents!), better known as the Noche Buena. This tradition is adopted from the Spanish culture but we do it our way, of course.
The Christmas table is usually laden out with different dishes, the centerpiece usually a lechon (roasted pig) surrounded by bowls of pancit, kare kare, menudo, mechado and a slew of other Pinoy specialties. After stuffing ourselves full come the presents and general merry-making (and more nomming).
And the top reason why there’s nothing like Christmas in Manila (or at least, according to me)?
1. Simply because it’s home.
And you know, corny as it may sound, home is where the heart is. Wherever you are, more than what you do, the success of any celebration depends on the people you’re with. And what better way to spend it than to be in the company of family, friends, and loved ones nomming more than you should, playing bingo or scrabble, talking until your throat is raw, and laughing to your heart’s content on Christmas day? (and then nomming some more)
So, I just wanted to greet you guys a maagang maligayang Pasko!
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