The Christmas season kicks off in the Philippines when people start hanging parol, or Christmas lanterns, outside their homes in September.
The parol has become a symbol of Filipino Christmas and is as important to Filipinos as the Christmas tree is in Western cultures.
Written history traces the art of making the parol to Francisco Estanislao, who is believed to have crafted the first one in 1908.
Oral tradition, however, says that the parol goes back to the early years of Christianity in the country, when people use it to light their way to church for the early morning Christmas Masses.
The traditional Filipino Christmas lantern is a five-pointed star made of bamboo strips with two decorative tails covered with “Japanese paper” and illuminated from inside. The word parol is derived from the Spanish word farol, which means lantern or light.
In recent years, the province of Pampanga, north of Manila, has hosted an annual giant lantern festival that signals the start of the nine-day liturgical celebration before Christmas.
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