World’s Longest Christmas Season
The Philippines has earned the distinction of celebrating the world’s longest Christmas season. Although faint traces of the coming Christmas arise beginning from early September, it is traditionally ushered in by the nine-day dawn Masses that start on Dec. 16. Known as the Misas de Aguinaldo (Gift Masses) or Misa de Gallo (Rooster’s Mass) in the traditional Spanish. These Masses are more popularly known in Tagalog as the Simbang Gabi. Christmas Eve on December 24 is the much-anticipated “noche buena” — the traditional Christmas feast after the midnight mass. Family members dine together on traditional noche buena fare, which includes the quéso de bóla (“ball cheese”, usually edam cheese) and jamón (Christmas ham). Usually, aside from the already legal holidays which are Rizal Day (December 30) and New Year’s Eve (December 31), other days in close proximity such as Christmas Eve (December 24), Niños Innocentes (December 28), and the Epiphany (traditionally, January 6) are also declared as non-working days. In Asia, Christmas is also the liveliest in the Philippines, since the country is one of the few predominantly Christian nation in the continent besides Russia, East Timor, Georgia and Armenia.
For Filipinos, Christmas Eve (“Bisperas ng Pasko”/Spanish: Vísperas de la Navidad) on December 24 is celebrated with the Midnight Mass, and immediately after, the much-anticipated Noche Buena – the traditional Christmas Eve feast. Family members dine together around 12 midnight on traditional Nochebuena fare, which includes: queso de bola (Spanish: “ball of cheese”; this is actually edam cheese), “Tsokolate” (a hot chocolate drink made from cacao and traditionally from crushed peanuts which add a pleasant grittiness and nutty flavor*.) and jamón (Christmas ham). Some would also open presents at this time.
*-Definition of Tsokolate-Desserts come first