A Very Filipino Christmas: 4 Ways to Celebrate When You’re Away from the Philippines

The Philippines are known for their Christmas spirit. They participate in one of the longest, if not the longest, Christmas seasons in the world. Filipino Christmas starts early on the islands—in September, in fact. Once the “Ber” months arrive, the celebration starts!

For OFWs, or overseas Filipino workers, it can be difficult to recreate this spirit. However, they’ve found creative ways to celebrate. Here at Remitly, we’ve asked around to find out just how they do it.

Filipino Christmas traditions

In the Philippines, the usual festivities include dawn masses or Simbang Gabi, and Yuletide songs popularized by Jose Mari Chan played in public places everywhere.

While this isn’t quite the same in other parts of the world, overseas’ Filipinos strive to make the season special wherever they are. From London to Los Angeles, the Philippines’ overseas community has learned to improvise ways to feel the Christmas spirit from afar.

4 Ways to Keep the Filipino Christmas Spirit Abroad

  1. Celebrate with fellow Filipinos – This year, COVID-19 restrictions make this difficult, but not impossible. Large gatherings with Filipino food, karaoke, and gift exchanges are still taking place remotely! Fellow kabayans are catching up and sharing stories over Zoom, FaceTime, and more.
  2. Call loved ones back home – If you can’t be with them personally, the next best option is to be with them on your devices. Technology helps families stay connected across oceans. This is the time of the year families call their loved ones and wish they were together.
  3. Filipino Christmas foods and decorations – Even if Filipinos have been settled for a long time in their new home, many of them keep the classic family traditions on Christmas. These include giving aguinaldo or pamasko, using parol or lantern decorations, cooking Filipino food, and celebrating Noche Buenas.
  4. Join local events – Aside from creating the Philippine-style Christmas spirit in their new host countries, Filipinos also immerse themselves in the local culture. Some share their time and blessings by giving away Christmas food packs, joining fun runs for charity, or volunteering. Even with COVID-related restrictions, many local Filipino organizations are hosting remote or socially distanced events and giveaways.

We asked our own Remitly team members and friends how they celebrate Christmas away from the Philippines, and here’s what they had to say.

Katrina T., Director, Marketing: “A favorite tradition is staying up late on Christmas Eve, going to midnight mass, exchanging gifts, and having Noche Buena, which is the feast that you share with family and friends. Nothing tastes like the homeland like piping hot tsokolate batirol, pan de sal with queso de bola, and all sorts of other Filipino delicacies on the eve before Christmas!”

Christophe S., Graphic Designer: “On Christmas Eve, I’ll be video calling with my family the whole night so it feels like I’m sitting down with them for Noche Buena and Christmas dinner.”

Kuya Kim Christmas
How do you keep the Filipino Christmas spirit alive away from the islands?

Wherever you find yourself at Christmas this year, we at Remitly wish you a very merry holiday season.

Further reading: 12 Popular Filipino Foods that Every Filipino Will Recognize

About Remitly

Remitly is a secure, affordable app for sending money to the Philippines. You can send US dollars, Euros, or British pounds directly to a Filipino bank account or mobile wallet with low transaction fees. Or you can send money for your friends or relatives to pick up in cash. We make it easy.

Find out more at Remitly.com or download the app today.