People in the Philippines like to celebrate Christmas for as long as possible! The playing of Christmas carols in shops can start in September! The formal Christmas celebrations start on 16th December when many people go the the first of nine pre-dawn or early morning masses. The last mass is on Christmas day. The Christmas celebrations continue to the First Sunday in January when Epiphany or the Feast of the Three Kings is celebrated.
Christmas customs in the Philippines are a mixture of western (USA and UK) and native Filipino traditions. So people in the Philippines have Santa Claus (or 'Santa Klaus'), Christmas trees, Christmas cards and Christmas carols from western countries!
They also have their own Christmas traditions such as the 'parol' which is a bamboo pole or frame with a lighted star lantern on it. It's traditionally made from bamboo strips and colored Japanese paper or cellophane paper and represents the star that guided the Wise Men. It is the most popular Christmas decoration in the Philippines.
Christmas Eve is very important in the Philippines. Many people stay awake all night into Christmas day! During Christmas Eve evening, Christians go to church to hear the last 'simbang gabi' or the Christmas Eve mass. This is followed by a midnight feast, called Noche Buena.
The Noche Buena is a big, open house, celebration with family, friends and neighbors dropping in to wish everyone a Merry Christmas! Most households would have several dishes laid out and would normally include: lechon (roasted pig), ham, fruit salad, rice cakes (bibingka and puto bumbong are traditional Christmas foods) and other sweets, steamed rice, and many different types of drinks.