The parol and the Filipino Christmas

On my way home last night, I noticed a row of stores selling “parols”, or Christmas lanterns. I noticed that as the years go by, people are no longer as excited as before, when holiday decor would be up as early as September and the streets would be pulsing with color. Recently, people let October and even November pass without putting up the wide variety of lanterns usually on display.

Or maybe I was just at the wrong place. I feel nostalgic for the “old days” when our family would visit lantern bazaars that were full of parols in every shape of star imaginable. Like pyrotechnics, the lights would have all sorts of sequences and rhythms, set to different kinds of Christmas songs.

The parol is the most Filipino of Christmas traditions. I wouldn’t say it’s Santa Claus, because we have no chimneys; much less reindeer. Not the belen (Holy Family tableau) or the Noche Buena (feast on the eve of Christmas), since these were both inherited from the Spanish.
True, the image of the star of Bethlehem came from the Bible, but the way it has been decorated and envisioned is uniquely Filipino, whether the star is decked in all the colors or in plain white to reflect the simplicity of the first Christmas story.

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