Christmas In Palayan City – Then And Now
The Ber months signal the start of the Christmas season in Palayan City, Nueva Ecija and elsewhere in the Philippines.
In Palayan City, just like in any other localities, Palayanos still celebrate their Christmas the traditional way. Filipinos are very rich in tradition and tend to embrace the customs and old practices they experienced and learned from their ascendants especially when it comes to spending Christmas with their loved ones.
Although modern technology and way of life have greatly affected the Filipinos’ way of celebrating Christmas, the following traditions are still celebrated by Palayanos.
The dawn mass or simbang gabi kicks off at dawn of December 16, when Palayanos wake up early to attend the simbang gabi mass, which usually starts at 4:00 a.m. This ancient custom was started by the Spanish friars during the 18th century and was intentionally scheduled this early so that the farmers can work on the farm soon after the mass was celebrated.
In the metropolitan areas, churches and even malls have scheduled the Simbang Gabi masses in the evenings, around 8:00 p.m. to adjust to the hectic lifestyle of the modern Filipino living in the urban area. In Palayan City, the early morning mass remains at 4:00 a.m. showing the locals’ love and adherence for customs and tradition.
Almost all houses in Palayan City, big or small, are adorned with the traditional parol or lantern, which comes in various shapes and sizes. A parol is a star-shaped Christmas lantern, which is traditionally crafted out of bamboo and Japanese paper.
The basic pattern of the parol is a star, but creative and artistic Filipinos have crafted the parol into modern Christmas lanterns made of other materials such as capiz shells, recycled plastic bottles with brightly colored LED lights, crepe paper, and many more. Some craftsmen have even made parol out of cast iron steel.
PUTO BUMBONG AT BIBINGKA
Christmas would not be complete without the usual puto bumbong at bibingka, which are customarily sold outside the churches after the traditional simbang gabi or dawn masses.
At the Sta. Cecilia Parish Church in Palayan City, Nueva Ecija, the pondahan (little store) strategically positioned outside the church sells authentic Filipino sweet delicacy, which locals flock to and buy right after the simbang gabi mass. This scenario is the same in all the churches in Palayan City as well as all over the country.
Although this native dish of puto bumbong at bibingka are now readily sold in the urban malls every single day of the year, still nothing beats the authentic recipe of the sweet delicacy sold outside the place of worships after the celebration of the simbang gabi on a nippy dawn which is customarily served with a complementary piping hot tea or tsaa.
Children of Nueva Ecija are also fond of caroling or karoling. When schools take a break for the Christmas season, usually around the last week before Christmas, youngsters of Palayan City typically form a group and rehearse Christmas carols to sing in front of the houses within their neighborhood.
The carolers use an improvised tambourine made of bottle caps held together by a clothesline wire (alambre) as accompaniment. The young carolers also use old cans as impromptu drums making their Christmas song lively, loud, merry and high-spirited.
Of course, after the carolers sing their Christmas song and the owners of the house give them their reward for singing, the usual chant would be, “Thank you… thank you… ang babait ninyo, thank you!”
MISA DE GALLO
After eight days of simbang gabi, on the eve of Christmas day, before 12:00 midnight, the Misa De Gallo is celebrated.
In Palayan City, the Misa de Gallo is celebrated before midnight so that the churchgoers can be home after the mass in time for the Noche Buena. In one part of the celebration, the faithful parishioners gather in solemn silence to mark the approach of Christmas day. Parishioners usually attend mass wearing their best dress and listen intently to the mass.
After the mass, the churchgoers rush to their houses where the noche buena feast awaits them.
In the urban areas like Metro Manila, the Misa De Gallo is celebrated earlier, around 8:00 p.m. so that parishioners can go home early and prepare for their Noche Buena.
After the Misa de Gallo, a grand feast is in store for the faithful churchgoers when they get home. The traditional Noche Buena is the feast where the whole family celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ by having a majestic dinner and serve yuletide treats like lechon, caldereta, quezo de bola, hamon de bola, pasta, relleno and other traditional food usually served during the Christmas Eve.
After the grand meal, the most awaited part of Christmas is the giving of gifts. The usual practice is for the children to line up near the Christmas tree and the oldest member of the family or the designated giver will announce the recipient of each and every gift.
This traditional practice is called the giving of Aguinaldo or pamasko. This is the main event of the Christmas season where everyone is thankful and happy for the gifts or presents they receive. Christmas would not be considered complete if there is no Aguinaldo or pamasko.
Finally, after the gift-giving, the merry-making starts when the whole family and friends enjoy Christmas games which continue until the wee hours of the morning.
On Christmas day itself, the inaanaks or godchildren visit the house of their ninongs or ninangs (godfathers or godmothers) for their Aguinaldo.
Be it in Palayan City, Nueva Ecija or any other place in the Philippines or even the world, the Christmas season will always be the celebration every Filipino anticipate with glee and childlike cheerfulness.
This was perhaps unintentionally instilled in the minds of the Filipinos during childhood by their parents and their parents’ parents. Whatever it is, wherever Filipinos are, whether in Palayan City, in Metro Manila or somewhere halfway across the globe, their Christmas feelings and the love and longingness for the Christmas traditions which they experienced when they were young will always be in their hearts.
Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon sa Lahat!