The first day of December is the most exciting day of the Christmas season. It is the day we dust off and finally hang a large, star-shaped decoration on the front window of our house. The parol is a festive handmade lantern, brightly lit with a variety of dancing light patterns reflecting through colored shells—easily the best part of Filipino Christmas! For Filipinos, the parol symbolizes the holiday season as quintessentially as the pine tree or candy cane does for Americans. We still recall how in the Philippines, Christmas decorations go up in every mall, street market, and home in the beginning of September—the parol always at the forefront.
The last time we celebrated Christmas in the Philippines was 1994 (24 years ago!). However, these beautiful, flashing displays still resonate as an essential part of our holiday tradition. Once the parol comes out of hiding, it cheerfully greets family and friends that enter our home, as well as passersby as they walk or drive past, throughout the entire holiday season. Most importantly, spotting parols in other homes is like a secret handshake—signifying a fellow festive Filipino family nearby—and immediately uplifts a comforting feeling of community and belonging.
One day, hopefully sooner than later, we will go back to the Philippines during parol season to witness the streets lined with hundreds of those displays: an endless sea of rainbow-colored lights each dancing to their own rhythm.
*This story was a contribution to Fil-Am Learner’s Filipino Christmas traditions post. Visit https://filamlearners.com/filipino-christmas-traditions-blog-round-up to see more traditions and activities that will help teach your kids about Filipino Pasko!