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The Best Filipino Christmas Dishes

An educator and researcher, Patty has degrees in psychology, sports, and medicine. She has traveled extensively for work.

The Christmas Star is seen everywhere from December 16 through the first Sunday in January, when the Wise Men traditionally followed the Star to the Baby Jesus.

The Christmas Star is seen everywhere from December 16 through the first Sunday in January, when the Wise Men traditionally followed the Star to the Baby Jesus.

A Long Christmas Season

The Philippines has been called the Land of Fiestas, and the Christmas season among the largely Roman Catholic population is likely the biggest fiesta of the year.

One of the most common decorations during the long Christmas season is the parol, or star lantern, which is made of bamboo into the shape of a stylized star and often lighted. Parols decorate the exterior of commercial buildings as well as the interior of private homes. These lanterns help to take the place of pine trees, which are scarce in the islands.

Music is an important part of the local Christmas season, as well. Westernized Christmas carols are played in the stores as early as October in Manila and other cities, signaling the beginning of the shopping season. However, a sad song begins to play nearer to the official start date. This is known as Pasko na Sinta Ko.

Masses and Parols

Christianity predominates in the Philippines and special church services commemorate the birth of Christ, beginning on December 16 with pre-dawn services.

There are ninne such masses, called Simbang Gabi (night masses) for the nine days before Christmas and Misas de Aguinaldo (gift masses) on December 24 in the evening.

Many Filipinos attend all the early masses at this time. Simbang Gabi is believed to have begun in Mexico, from where missionaries from Spain traveled on to the Philippines in the 1600s and began 4:00 a.m. masses for the agricultural society that needed to be in the fields at sunrise. Thus, the tradition is 400-plus years old.

The Christmas star, symbolized by the parol all over the land and representing the Star of Bethlehem followed by the Three Wise Men in the New Testament if the Bible is everywhere during this time. Banners, buntings, and streamers are also everywhere, indoors and outdoors. Santa Claus is often seen during this season in the Philippines.

Along with the traditional services and decorations of Christmas in the islands, there are certain traditional foods.

This bibingka uses chicken and duck eggs and is topped with a mild white cheese and coconut.

This bibingka uses chicken and duck eggs and is topped with a mild white cheese and coconut.

Bibingka

For many, many celebrants at the midnight masses, this is a very simple recipe for the party afterward. Some recipes are more complex and use chicken and duck eggs as well, to form a custard.

Ingredients

  • 5 1/2 cups rice (or 1 box of rice flour)
  • 1 (12-oz) can coconut milk (divided into 1 cup and ¼ cup)
  • 1 pound dark brown sugar
  • Banana leaves

Instructions

  1. Preheat electric oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cook on the stovetop or in a rice cooker.
  3. In a saucepan, combine the coconut milk and 1 ¼ cups of the brown sugar. Stir.
  4. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened (15-20 minutes).
  5. Wilt the banana leaves over low heat on an electric stove and use them to line a 13” by 9” baking pan.
  6. Put rice into a large bowl with 1 cup coconut milk and the rest of the brown sugar, stirring well.
  7. Place rice mixture into the pan and top with 1/2 cup coconut milk.
  8. Bake 20 minutes, then broil 5 minutes.
  9. Cut into squares and serve.

The Feast After Midnight

Very early on Christmas morning, just after midnight, there is Noche Buena, the tradition of the Good Night or the Night of Goodness.

This night is celebrated with the family and friends, almost like an open house for kids to play and for all to open presents.

Kare-Kare (Tripe with Peanut Butter)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound beef tripe
  • 3 medium eggplants, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 bunch green beans, cut into 1-inch sections
  • 1 can banana flower
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Boil beef tripe in salted water for 2 hours until tender.
  2. Drain and cut into 2-inch slices.
  3. In a wok with oil, sauté garlic, and onion, and vegetables for 12 minutes.
  4. Add peanut butter; stir and cook 10 minutes.
  5. Add in the tripe into the vegetable mix and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Serve with hot rice and fish sauce.
Churros are traditionally served with hot chocolate

Churros are traditionally served with hot chocolate

Churros

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 whole eggs
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Add water, butter, and salt in a pan and boil.
  2. Add flour and with a wooden spoon stir until you have a firm ball.
  3. Remove from burner, let cool 15 minutes.
  4. Put dough in a bowl and mix, adding eggs and beating dough for 5 minutes.
  5. Put plenty of oil in a boiling pot, so churros will float.
  6. Heat oil and drop the mix into the oil from a special bag or by the spoonful a few at a time.
  7. Cook until brown, for about 6 minutes.
  8. Take out churros with a slotted spoon and place them on a paper towel covered with sugar; also sprinkle sugar on top and eat.

Puto Bumbong

Salabat

© 2008 Patty Inglish MS

Comments

Asher on December 23, 2011:

Im very hungry and watering mouth with bibingka like to eat those food from Philippines.

edzred331 from Philippines on December 15, 2011:

Pretty interesting! I lived here in the Philippines for 8 years and there's still a lot to discover! I'm getting hungry now.. lol

mae on May 23, 2011:

i like so much the food it so yummy............

georgiecarlos from Philippines on February 09, 2011:

I love Bibingka! Wow, this made me very hungry :)

deblipp on December 19, 2010:

Good Hub Indeed!!!!!

The hub displayed the festive occasion of Christmas in a great way. It is true that The Philippines has been called the Land of Fiestas and the Christmas Season among the largely Roman Catholic population is likely the biggest fiesta of the year. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful peace of text.

joyce.blue on December 11, 2010:

Thanks for this hub. I already tried eating puto bumbong and its good and same with bibingka. You will see how they prepare it and cook it in front of you. Now, I feel hungry.

youngdubliner from Dublin, Ireland on December 11, 2010:

very interesting topic. got me hungry!

maricar on December 10, 2010:

yummmy !!!

karen faith tayone on September 20, 2010:

thanks

Christine Mulberry on December 21, 2009:

I'm always trying new things...some of these sound pretty interesting, thanks!

Jana08_cute on December 19, 2009:

hi!! maam im new hubber! im 11 years old!! Im form philippines. Nice hub maam!!

Gener Geminiano from Land of Salt, Philippines on December 01, 2009:

Thanks Patty wow,you have mouthwatering eats here can't wait to eat kare kare in the days ahead... Yummy and delicious hub... :)

marlena on November 29, 2009:

so hungry reading your recipes. thanks for sharing. cheers!

pink girl 14 on November 27, 2009:

i really love eating pinoy foods especially that bibingka!!!!!!!!!!I'M CRAZY OVER IT.HOPE TO COME BACK HERE NEXT TIME AND TASTE THOSE DELICIOUS FOODS AGAIN......................

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on November 14, 2009:

freidns, you are making me hungry to start preparing these dishes! :) Now I can smell them too...

pinkhawk from Pearl of the Orient on November 13, 2009:

yum..yum!... bibingka and kare-kare are my favorites! :) i can even smell them in my mind! :)thank you! :)....

Fehl Dungo from close to you... on October 30, 2009:

I know it's too early for Christmas but I'm already craving for bibingka. I like the one with melted cheese, butter and salted egg on top ;p

thanks for the yummy hub Patty! ;p

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on December 23, 2008:

Merry Christmas, Ethel & Baby Cribs! With additional vegetables, the kare-kare would be very tasty. Which ones would you add, Ethel?

Ethel on December 21, 2008:

Thanks for this article! I am 100% Filipino, born & raised in Manila and now living her in southern California. I had no idea how to make a kare-kare (beef tripe) dish for Christmas Eve dinner. Although your version were missing some other vegetables that my dad used to put in it, I know I can improvise... at least it'll be home cooked rather than catered. Thanks for promoting Filipino foods and traditions!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on December 14, 2008:

riplemaker - Thank you very much fo rthe kink to such a touching story. I will read it many times. Be blessed!

JJC13 - Thank you for clarifying the traditions. It is all much longer even than I expected and sounds like a grand season. Blessings to you.

JJC13 from Liverpool on December 14, 2008:

I know someone from the Philippines and I was informed that Christmas starts when the "BER" months arrive... that is of course September. As early as September Christmas carols can be heard and Christmas decors are being sold in stores. The December 16 is that start of the so called Simbang Gabi, a 9 days Novena where they attend early dawn Mass until Christmas.

Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on December 13, 2008:

Hi Patty, I enjoyed reading this hub. You have been able to write the information very well esp. regarding the details of our Christmas traditions in the Philippines! :-) As for the food you mentioned like bibingka and so on, they are indeed quite famous here. But I don't cook, we just buy them. LOL Maybe we should try the bibingka recipe one of these days!

May I share an article I wrote re: one of my experiences in a Misa de Aguinaldo (midnight mass) that touched me? http://www.lovingabundance.com/akohdei-christmas-t...

Thanks for this beautiful hub! :) Merry Christmas

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on December 07, 2008:

I hope you enjoy these recipes very much, rmr! I can't think about where the kare-kare comes from, but it is clean and well cooked before consumption. :)

rmr from Livonia, MI on December 07, 2008:

These look pretty tasty, Patty. As usual. I have to say, my hubpages recipe box is growing quickly!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on December 07, 2008:

Thanks for all the nice comments - it is good to hear form eahc one of you :)

I found out that the Bibingka is good either way - eggs or no eggs. The recipe on this page came out really well!

Netters from Land of Enchantment - NM on December 06, 2008:

That's very interesting. I had no idea. Thank s Patty!

fishskinfreak2008 from Fremont CA on December 06, 2008:

I'm gettin' hungry again

Jim Batuyong from Anaheim, CA on December 06, 2008:

Thanks patty that was a cool look into my families heritage. I, unfortunately, was not exposed to it too much but did have contact with some family from the Philippines when I was younger. My father who is half Filipino, taught us how to make Pancit and pork adobo but not too many other things. Thanks again for the nice hub.

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