The Filipino Christmas Lantern: An Iconic Holiday Symbol

Christmas Lantern hanging on traffic lights

The Filipino Christmas lantern is an iconic image every Christmas season.

If you browsed the web recently, you may have seen a tear-jerking short animated film from Disney. It depicts the Christmas celebration in the Philippines where a young girl and her lola (Filipino term for Grandmother) makes a Filipino Christmas lantern. Filipinos worldwide showed their pride after a big part of their culture was shown in the media conglomerate. With no dialogue and only imagery, this was a great depiction of the Christmas season in the Philippines.

Christmas in the Philippines is filled with Christmas trees, lights, and miniature Santa Claus figurines. You won’t find snow anywhere with it being a tropical country. Instead, you will see decorated houses, offices, and shopping malls. However, all you need is to hang a colorful star-shaped lantern outside your house and you will already fit in with the locals. The Christmas lantern is a quick reminder that Santa Claus is coming to town.

The Christmas lantern, also known as the parol, is one of the cultural influences of Spain in the Philippines, when the Spaniards introduced Christianity to the country. It is said to have been a guide for church goers during Simbang Gabi, a nine-day novena set early at dawn. It is also said to be inspired by the star of Bethlehem that guided the Three Wise Men to the manger where Christ was born.

As seen from the commercial, the lanterns lighting up the night sky is a beautiful sight to behold. Overseas Filipino workers are reminded of simpler times when they see these hanging on their ceilings. You can even say that a lantern is more important than a Christmas tree to a Filipino family. Every province in the Philippines has a lot of families hanging colorful lanterns outside their houses.

Parols sold at the Carbon Public Market

Along with other Philippine products, vendors in Carbon sell Christmas lanterns when Christmas time approaches.

In Cebu, there are many stores in the streets that sell parols. Arguably the most famous has to be the Carbon Market. Not only is it a place to buy essential food items and Philippine products, but the Freedom Park in front of the market is also filled with many vendors selling beautiful looking lanterns for Cebuanos. You have tons of options, though, as many vendors can be seen on sidewalks and roads selling lanterns to commuters and drivers alike.

If you are looking for things to do in the Philippines during Christmas, maybe you want to make your own. A Filipino parol kit typically consists of sticks and an adhesive or string. The sticks are bound together to form a star with five points. Disney also recently released a short video on how to make a Christmas lantern yourself, so maybe you can check it out.

Lantern makers would design lanterns with many colors to make them stand out. There are many designs for parols, and you can even ask a vendor in Carbon to customize a lantern for you.

The most common design is obviously the star design, typically seen in most markets. There are different types of lantern designs, though. Sometimes they would place the star inside a circle to give it more flair. Cebuanos even hold many lantern-making contests and use different materials to show off their creativity.

Another popular design is the Capiz lantern popularized in Pampanga. A more minimalistic looking lantern, Capiz lanterns are made from capiz shells shaped like a ball with a light inside.

Christmas lanterns are the perfect way for Filipinos to show their skills in creating something colorful, bright, and memorable. The Philippines becomes a festival of lights when Christmas comes. December and January are some of the busiest times in Cebu because you have the Sinulog Festival followed right after the already festive Christmas celebration. However, recent events have threatened the holiday’s festivities.

A Filipino Christmas is typically an overnight celebration where families from different places get together to celebrate the holidays. However, the coronavirus pandemic has virtually stopped all celebrations and gatherings. Night time curfews are in place in many areas in the Philippines. In Cebu City, caroling is even prohibited. This is going to be the first time in a long time where Christmas won’t be as loud as we all knew.

Fortunately, Filipinos are determined to let it push through. It’s true that there are things we will miss, and some of the biggest moments will be cancelled, but festive Filipinos won’t let it take away their holiday cheer.

Vendors at the Carbon Public Market are still selling these beautiful creations for those who want to design their houses in time for the holidays. Not only are lanterns a symbol of Christmas time, but they are also a big business boom for Filipinos in December. You can say that Filipinos will definitely find a way to keep going.

The Filipino Christmas lantern is something that most Filipinos will definitely recognize. If you’ve travelled to Cebu during the Christmas season, you may also be familiar with it. It has a lasting impact on everyone in the country as it brings holiday cheer to help you unwind. You can see one hanging on the streets and know that it’s that time of the year again.

things to do in the Philippines during Christmas

Going to markets to buy Filipino Christmas lanterns is one of the many great things to do in the Philippines during Christmas.

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