Christmas for the Filipino people is like a big, year-end fiesta: lots of families gathering together, food is put out by the dozen, and a general feeling of love and peace floats about the air. Another big aspect for the Filipinos this season is the hanging of colorful decorations. Aside from the usual tinsel and string lights, the parol (pah-rol) is also a familiar sight during this time.
The decoration was first crafted and introduced by Spanish artisan Francisco Estanislao in the late 20’s, using them to light the way to church for nine-day ‘Simbang Gabi’ (Church Night)/Misa de Gallo (Rooster Mass) leading up to Christmas Eve.
The original lantern designs are made of bamboo strips covered with cellophane or papél de japón (Japanese paper) and lighted by a candle. These days, electric light bulbs or LED lights are the safer options. Through the years, more luxurious parols have evolved from the original design. These are often made by elaborately piecing together capiz shells to make pretty patterns. No matter what style they’re presented in, these decorations will always be a staple to the local decorations and are iconic to Christmas time in the Philippines.