Things to See and Do in Cebu during the Christmas Season

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Discover why Filipinos love celebrating the Christmas season.

The Philippines is known to have the longest celebration of the Christmas season. The festivities and holiday cheer can start as early as September and last until the first week of January. 

Dozens of businesses sell ornaments and Christmas tree decorations around this time, while carollers go from house to house in different towns and neighborhoods singing popular Christmas tunes. 

In Cebu, tourist spots and establishments prepare for the holidays by putting up a variety of impressive and colorful decorations to get into the Christmas spirit. The vibrant atmosphere definitely makes them even more appealing as hangout spots during the holiday season.

Many Filipinos look forward to celebrating Christmas, as this is the best time for families to reconnect and spend time together. Friends and family will meet up on Christmas Eve, enjoying Noche Buena and other local delicacies while waiting for the clock to strike 12. 

If you plan on spending Christmas in Cebu, here is a list of activities and places to go where you can celebrate the Christmas cheer.

Looking for impressive Christmas tree decorations? Check out the Tree of Hope in Osmeña Circle!

Visit the Fuente Osmeña Circle Tree of Hope

Every year, Cebuanos look forward to the lighting of the Tree of Hope, the colossal Christmas tree built at the Fuente Osmeña Circle. Many locals visit the area to see the massive structure light up the night sky in uptown Cebu.

You may have already seen this structure when you pass by the Fuente rotunda during the Advent season, and every year it brings a new design to entice locals and tourists. 

Fuente has long been a go-to Christmas destination, with dozens of Cebuanos dropping by to hang out at the park or to check out the night market. Unfortunately, the city government postponed activities inside the park because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As cases continue to dwindle, there is hope to see this fun late-night attraction once again. 

Don’t miss the mesmerizing Festival of Lights at Ayala Terraces from 6 PM - 9 PM.

Witness the Festival of Lights at Ayala Terraces

Shopping centers manage to build beautiful Christmas setups to usher in holiday cheer. However, the most striking of them all has to be the mesmerizing Festival of Lights at Ayala Center Cebu. 

Ayala’s in-house park, The Terraces, gleams with hundreds of lights scattered all around, from the bushes and trees to the railings on all floors. It is already a great place to hang out, but the beautiful lights elevate it to a more festive level. 

There’s no doubt that people are fascinated with the lights show once it starts, making it one of the go-to Christmas destinations in the city.

Other malls also have their own setup, with massive Christmas trees, hanging ornaments, and life-size mangers that can be seen in restaurants, cafes, and other establishments. And almost everywhere you go, Christmas songs will be playing in the background.

Cebuanos also celebrate the Christmas season with the Misa de Gallo.

Attend the Simbang Gabi

Simbang Gabi is one of the most popular Christmas traditions in the Philippines. In a way, it’s considered a spiritual preparation for the Christmas season. This consists of a nine-day novena mass leading up to Christmas Eve, where churches conduct masses at dawn from December 16 to 24.

Spanish friars introduced the tradition to early Filipinos to help farmers attend mass before tending to their fields. The church bells would ring at 3 in the morning to wake the residents for the religious celebration at 4.  

Today, the Simbang Gabi has adapted to changes in the 21st century. Some churches would hold their masses at either 8 or 9 in the evening to accommodate those with different work schedules. 

Some communities even prepare special snacks like suman, bibingka, and puto to be eaten after the celebration of the mass.

A Family Dinner

A massive dinner is expected as part of a successful Christmas celebration. Christmas feasts are perfect for showing off your culinary skills by serving your house specialties, or for family and friends to gather and celebrate the holidays. 

Foods commonly served during the Christmas season include Keso de Bola and the Christmas Ham. Other food staples that you can find in a typical Filipino household on Christmas Eve are lumpia, spaghetti, lechon manok, buko salad, pancit, embutido, and so on.

Christmas celebration in the Philippines is not complete without the iconic lechon.

In Cebu, many families order a whole lechon for the celebration. Due to its sheer size, the iconic suckling pig is an ideal meal to share with the entire family. 

Aside from trying out delicious meals, Christmas dinners are the perfect time to catch up with family and friends before opening up the Christmas presents or watching the fireworks at midnight.   


Many people think that a typical Christmas celebration in the Philippines lasts longer than others, but did you know that the festivities last even longer in Cebu? 

Right after celebrating the birth of Christ, Cebuanos prepare for the feast day of the island’s patron saint, the Santo Niño. 

During the second week of January, people flock to the streets to witness the Sinulog Festival. The main highlight of this annual event is the Grand Parade, where contingents perform their versions of the Sinulog dance on the streets of Cebu. 

Cebu is also one of the best places to attend the novena mass, as it is home to many historic churches. The Basilica del Sto. Niño and the Archdiocesan Shrine of Sta. Teresa de Avila are some of the oldest on the island, and they remain relevant to the history of Catholicism in Cebu. 

There are several Christmas destinations in Cebu that are perfect for ushering in the Christmas season. You can feel the holiday spirit in almost every location, from malls to hotels to historical landmarks.

As the Ber months start, Cebuanos get all giddy and excited to celebrate the birth of Christ. This is one of the most important days in any Filipino household, as it is when we get to spend quality time with the most significant people in our lives. 

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