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Christmas Season Pampanga Style

Christmas is one of the most awaited and probably one of the longest celebrated holidays in the Philippines. In every province and town, homes are lit with Christmas lanterns, locally called as parols, Christmas trees are displayed even as early as September, and children roam the streets in the late afternoons to sing carols in houses nearby. On Christmas Eve, Filipino families get together for the Noche Buena, where every member will sit down for dinner and wait for the clock to strike midnight.

Although these traditions are observed in most provinces in the country, the Kapampangans celebrate Christmas a little differently.

Being the Christmas Capital of the Philippines, the City of San Fernando in Pampanga annually holds the Giant Lantern Festival that showcases the world-class artistic skills of the Kapampangans who are able to create incredible 20-foot tall lanterns with thousands of lights that “dances” to Christmas carols.

In Angeles City, also in Pampanga, hawkers stalls selling the holiday kakanins like puto bumbong and bibingka open during the “Ber months” at Plaza Anghel, which are flocked by hundreds of people every night. However, what most people come at Plaza Anghel for is Café Museo’s “suklating batirol” or Pampanga’s version of the hot chocolate (cacao).

Sta. Rita town’s “green gold” also what makes thousands of locals and tourists alike to visit the Duman Festival that happens every first week of December. Duman is an expensive delicacy made of lacatan (young glutinous rice) that can cost anywhere from 800 to 1,000 pesos per kilo.

The simbang gabi (misa de gallo) or what is known as simbang bengi is also celebrated in Pampanga, but besides this, Kapampangans also hold the Lubenas ning Pasku (the Novena of Christmas). The Lubenas is a traditional religious procession which is held nine consecutive nights before Christmas. The cities of San Fernando, Angeles, and Mabalacat are known to still observe this age-old tradition. The barangays in each city parade their patron saint followed by a fish-shaped lantern representing Jesus Christ and 12 lanterns, representing the apostles. On Christmas Eve, the lanterns from different barangays will gather in front of the town’s parish church where a midnight mass is held.

Of course, being recognized as the Culinary Capital of the Philipines, Kapamangans also take pride with the dishes they serve during Noche Buena. Besides the usual Christmas feasts, Kapampangans also cook traditional Christmas dishes such as morcon, panara, bringhe, and the hearty Nilagang Pasku.

Although celebrating Christmas in the Philippines is a unique experience, celebrating Christmas Pampanga style will surely take your experience a notch higher.

Find places to shop during this season: Shopping in Pampanga

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