Noche Buena: feast like a Filipino this Christmas

Original post date: November 27, 2023

The Philippines is known to have the longest Christmas season in the world.

It starts with the 'ber' months - September, October, November, and December. Get it? Yes, as the month of September starts, the malls around the metropolis will start playing Christmas songs while its interior and exterior will be adorned with festive decorations.

Christmas shopping is on everybody's list of things to do. Everybody will be scouring for the Christmas markets and the Midnight Sales in every mall in the city.

Christmas party planning will be in full gear from office ones to the family ones. Yes! It will be a frenzy of activities.


The true Christmas season starts with simbang gabi or dawn masses, which starts on the 16th of December. It is 9 days before Christmas day. It is like the 9 days of a novena. These masses are usually 4 AM in the morning and it said that if you complete the 9 days, your wish will be granted.

Like most, we all start eagerly with the intention of completing, but, it is more challenging than one thinks.

The incentive for waking up early for these masses is the scrumptious treats afterward. Traditionally, it will be bibingka and puto bumbong. Both are rice cakes. Bibingka resembles a pancake while puto bumbong is purple and cylindrical in shape. Both are usually eaten either with salabat (ginger tea) or hot chocolate.

The distinct aroma of bibingka, cooked over hot coals and topped with salted egg and grated coconut, is a nostalgic reminder of holidays past. Puto bumbong, purple-hued rice cakes steamed in bamboo tubes, bring a unique and delightful texture to the dessert spread.


Noche Buena has deep historical roots in the Philippines, intertwining cultural, religious, and culinary traditions. The term itself, "Noche Buena," is Spanish for "Good Night," reflecting the strong influence of Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines.

The tradition of Noche Buena is believed to have been introduced by Spanish colonisers during their 333-year occupation of the Philippines. Spanish colonisers were known for their elaborate Christmas celebrations, and the practice of having a festive meal on Christmas eve became ingrained in Filipino culture.

The food

Noche Buena is not just a meal; it's a sensory experience. The table is adorned with vibrant colours, from the red of the Christmas lanterns to the green and gold of festive decorations. The glow of parol lights adds a warm and inviting touch, creating a cozy ambiance that invites everyone to gather around.

The star of the show, the lechon, is meticulously roasted to perfection, creating a crispy skin that crackles with every bite. The aroma of garlic and soy sauce wafts through the air as adobo simmers on the stove, its savoury scent promising a flavour explosion.

Relleno de lechon: A show-stopping dish where a deboned and stuffed roasted pig is presented, highlighting the culinary craftsmanship involved.

Pancit Malabon: A noodle dish adorned with a rich and savoury sauce, often topped with shrimp, chicharron (crispy pork skin), and hard-boiled eggs. It's a symbol of long life and prosperity.

Hamon: A Filipino-style ham, sweet and savoury, glazed to perfection. It's a staple during the holiday season, often served with pineapple slices.

Quezo de Bola: A round Edam cheese, typically served during Christmas. It's a favourite for both its creamy texture and mild flavour.

Lumpia: Spring rolls filled with a mixture of minced meat and vegetables, deep-fried until golden brown, and served with a sweet and tangy dipping sauce.

Salad: A festive mix of macaroni or fruit salad, showcasing a delightful blend of flavors and textures. It brings a refreshing contrast to the savory dishes.

Tsokolate: A thick and rich hot chocolate beverage, often paired with bibingka or puto, providing a comforting and indulgent treat.

Plus many more!

In photo: 1st row (L-R) fiesta ham, paella valenciana, pancit canton; 2nd row (L-R) vegetable lumpia, hardinera, coffee sans rival

The variety of flavours and textures ensures there's something for everyone to enjoy during this special night.

Over the years, Noche Buena has evolved to reflect regional variations and individual family preferences, but its core essence as a celebration of family, faith, and feasting remains constant.

It's a time when Filipino homes come alive with the spirit of Christmas, creating lasting memories and fostering a sense of unity and joy.

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