Christmas is celebrated probably the longest in the Philippines. At the start of the ‘ber months (September, October, etc.), you will hear Christmas songs playing over the radio, at the mall and almost everywhere. For most household, Christmas decors are put up as soon as All Souls day is over. Parols or Christmas lanterns are sold on (almost) every street corner.
When I was a little kid, I would beg my parents to stop at roadside stalls along the highway of Bago City to buy a Parol. I remember my Lola, probably took pity on me and bought me this small star shaped lantern made of bamboo and red cellophane with while Japanese paper trimmings. I hanged it in our house for many Christmases.
Parols today are not just made of bamboo and paper or cellophane but Capiz shells, plastic, etc. They now come in different shapes (and sizes as well) other than the usual star-shaped lanterns. It’s no longer illuminated by a simple candle or oil lamp but by intricate series of lights that they seem to come to life on their own. You can find Parols measuring fifteen to twenty feet in diameter when the city of San Fernando in Pampanga celebrates the Giant Lantern Festival every December. Where kaleidoscopic blinking lights are paraded through the streets on truck beds. But I have yet to see this festival myself.
But whatever size or shape, Parol remains the quintessential symbol of Christmas for many Filipinos. A symbol hope.