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The Best Philippine Christmas Dishes

Updated on December 22, 2016

Oh Holy Night

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. | Source

A Long Christmas Season

It is reported that Christ in the Philippine Islands begins officially on December 16th each year and lasts through the First Sunday of January. 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 major decorations of the Philippines 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.

Music is an important part of the Filipino Christmas Season. Westernized Christmas carols are played in the stores as early in October in Manila another cities, signaling the beginning of the shopping season. However, a sad song begins to play nearer top the official start date. This is known as Pasko na Sinta Ko. At the same time, the parols come out onto the exterior of commercial buildings and homes as well as the interior décor. Parols help to take the place of pine trees that are scare in the islands.

Celebrating With the Parol Star

Parol - The Star of Bethlehem, Traditional In the Philippines

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Masses and Parols

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

There are 9 such masses, called Simbang Gabi (night masses) for the nine days before Christmas and Misas de Aguinaldo (gift masses) on December 24th 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 AM 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 the traditional foods.

Breakfast For the Masses


chotda @flickr. This style uses chicken and duck eggs and is topped with a mild white cheese and coconut.
chotda @flickr. This style uses chicken and duck eggs and is topped with a mild white cheese and coconut. | Source
  • 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.


  • 5.5 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


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

  • Puto Bumbong [Purple sticky rice steamed in wooden tubes] - see video below

  • Salabat [Ginger Tea] - see video below.

  • Hot Chocolate

Puto Bumbong


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.

Some of the traditional dishes for this night include:

  • Queso de Bola [Cheese Ball]

  • Hamon [Christmas Ham]

  • Kare-Kare [Tripe with Peanut Butter]


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


  • Boil beef tripe in salted water for 2 hours until tender.
  • Drain and cut into 2-inch slices.
  • In a wok with oil, sauté garlic, and onion, and vegetables for 12 minutes.
  • Add peanut butter; stir and cook 10 minutes.
  • Add in the tripe into the vegetable mix and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Serve with hot rice and fish sauce.
  • Lumpia - a complex recipe for spring rolls.

  • Banana Fritters:

  • Churros


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


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

Churros with hot chocolate.
Churros with hot chocolate. | Source

© 2008 Patty Inglish


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    • profile image

      Asher 5 years ago

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

    • edzred331 profile image

      edzred331 5 years ago from Philippines

      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

    • profile image

      mae 6 years ago

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

    • georgiecarlos profile image

      georgiecarlos 6 years ago from Philippines

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

    • deblipp profile image

      deblipp 6 years ago

      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.

    • profile image 6 years ago

      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 profile image

      youngdubliner 6 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      very interesting topic. got me hungry!

    • profile image

      maricar 6 years ago

      yummmy !!!

    • profile image

      karen faith tayone 7 years ago


    • mulberry1 profile image

      mulberry1 7 years ago

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

    • Jana08_cute profile image

      Jana08_cute 7 years ago

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

    • GeneralHowitzer profile image

      Gener Geminiano 7 years ago from Land of Salt, Philippines

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

    • profile image

      marlena 7 years ago

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

    • profile image

      pink girl 14 7 years ago

      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 profile image

      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from North America

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

    • pinkhawk profile image

      pinkhawk 7 years ago from Pearl of the Orient

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

    • blaise25 profile image

      Fehl Dungo 7 years ago from close to you...

      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 profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from North America

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

    • profile image

      Ethel 8 years ago

      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 profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from North America

      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 profile image

      JJC13 8 years ago from Liverpool

      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.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      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?

      Thanks for this beautiful hub! :) Merry Christmas

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from North America

      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 profile image

      rmr 8 years ago from Livonia, MI

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

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from North America

      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 profile image

      Netters 8 years ago from Land of Enchantment - NM

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

    • fishskinfreak2008 profile image

      fishskinfreak2008 8 years ago from Fremont CA

      I'm gettin' hungry again

    • Jim Batuyong profile image

      Jim Batuyong 8 years ago from Anaheim, CA

      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.