Christmas is the biggest holiday in the Philippines. Majority of the country’s citizens, including me, are Catholics and we celebrate Christmas in a big way. Hundreds of expats from all over the world rush through airports in the hopes to be in the arms of their loved ones in the Philippines on this special day.
One of the highlights of the holiday season is the “simbang gabi”. “Simbang gabi” is a Filipino Christmas tradition which is a series of 9 dawn masses. Mass commences at 4am and begins on the 16th of December until midnight of 24th December. Catholics wake up early and troop to the church in the hopes that their wishes or desires for the coming year will be fulfilled.
After mass, people look forward to delicious Filipino food delights sold just outside the church. These “kakanins” are just one of the many reasons why people wake up very early at dawn with smiles on their faces. There is nothing like enjoying suman and tsokolate right after mass.
Many people might disagree with my list but for me these are the Christmas kakanins I look forward most to during holiday season.
Bibingka is a type or rice cake traditionally eaten during the holiday season, although it is available all year round. According to anthropologist E. Arsenio Manuel, the word bibingka originated from the Chinese. The name is from the Hokkien root word bi which means uncooked grain. Bibingka is one of the most popular Christmas kakanins.
Puto bumbong is traditionally made from a variety of glutinous or sticky rice which has a distinct purple color. The mixture of rice and other ingredients are soaked in saltwater and left to dry overnight and then poured into a bamboo tube (bumbong) and steamed until steam rise out of the bamboo tubes. Puto bumbong is most often served with butter or margarine and shredded coconut and brown sugar.
Maja blanca is a dessert made primarily from maja blanca. Maja blanca also goes by the name coconut pudding, it is commonly served during special occasions such as fiestas and Christmas. Another variant of maja blanca is the purple color maja de ube, which uses purple yam resulting in the color.
Suman is a rice cake made from glutinous rice and cononut milk. It is often steamed and eaten with sprinkled sugar. Suman is also known as budbud in the Visayan language.
Kutsinta is a staple in fiestas, especially in the countryside. It is a sticky and chewy brown rice cake made with lye water and cassava. It is also topped with shredded coconuts.
Palitaw is made from sticky rice which is washed, soaked and the ground. It is them scooped in batters and dropped into boiling water. Then the rice surfaces (litaw) in soft,flat discs, hence the name.