VIDEO: Students share what it's like to celebrate Filipino Christmas



Some members of the IU Filipino American Association made Paroles, Christmas star decorations and ate Filipino chicken soup. Others demonstrated Tinikling, a traditional Filipino folk dance using bamboo sticks.

The Philippines is sometimes referred to as “The Land of Fiestas,” especially during Christmas time. As celebrations begin Dec. 16 and continue until the first Sunday of January, the Philippines have the longest Christmas celebration in the world.

Students from the IU Filipino American Association began the celebration at the Asian Culture Center on Friday night with homemade decorations, warm food and dancing to show what Christmas in a Filipino home is like.

In the living room, students gathered in a circle to make paroles, a Christmas star decoration essential to Filipino culture. Representing the star of Bethlehem, paroles are usually decorated with bright colors and filled with a light or candle. The origin of the decoration can be traced back to the Spanish era, when the Spaniards brought Christianity to the Philippines.

Junior Zach Cruz, president of the Filipino American Association, said many people in the Philippines will hang the paroles outside their windows and around their houses.

“It’s like the star on top of the tree but different,” he said. “If you go into just about any Filipino home you’ll probably find one stored in their attic or somewhere.”

While some stayed in the living room to finish their paroles, some gathered in the kitchen to make arroz caldo, a Filipino chicken soup, and Turonitos, a Filipino desert filled with bananas.

Senior Alyssa de la Rosa said these foods are not necessarily Christmas-themed but rather general winter foods in the Philippines.

“My mom always makes it in the winter when it gets cold,” she said about the arroz caldo. “It’s a good comfort food that’s easy to make.”

Once the paroles and food were finished, Cruz changed the music from American Christmas to traditional Filipino tinikling music, which required a slow and steady beat.

Tinikling is a traditional Filipino folk dance where people rhythmically step between two bamboo poles that are being tapped together to create a beat.

“I actually had never done tinikling before IU,” Cruz said right before he hopped in between the poles and began dancing with another student.

Some students had been taught tinikling as children, so they were more advanced. Some, like Cruz, learned at IU through their connections with the Filipino American Association and other organizations. A few students who were new to the ACC gave their best attempt to learn tinikling for the first time.

Switching between modern American and traditional Filipino music, the students continued to dance and share stories with one another.

“Christmas really is my favorite time of year,” Cruz said.

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