Celebrating Christmas with Festive Foods

Celebrating Christmas with Festive Foods

It can’t be argued that food is part of every Filipino’s personal history. Certain dishes are sure to evoke fond memories of past Christmases. The first bite into your favorite Christmas dish and it will surely transport you to the warmth of home, the excitement of opening gifts, the laughter and stories shared among families and friends during the most awaited event of the year.


First on the list of festive foods is the Christmas ham. The dinner on Christmas eve, called Noche Buena, will not be complete without this ubiquitous ham (also called hamon or jamon). They come in different shapes, sizes, flavors, and textures. Supermarkets carry affordable hams, usually pear-shaped and round, allowing many families to have this delicious food for Christmas. These hams have a sweet taste due to the pineapple-sugar glaze on top. For those who can spare some more money for a ham, there are specialty shops that sell bone-in hams and sliced hams. These hams are usually cured and smoked, giving the complex flavor of sweet, salty, and savory.


A perfect accompaniment for the Christmas ham is quezo de bola. Literally, it means round cheese. These globes of cheese wrapped in bright red wax are only available during the holiday season. The taste and texture of quezo de bola varies, depending on the brand of the cheese.


For large parties, roasted pig or lechon is the star of the buffet table. The golden brown skin of the lechon glistening under a yellow lamp is sure to whet the appetite of guests. A lechon chopper slices and chops the crispy skin and juicy pork and the sound of the meat cleaver hitting a big butcher block is music to partygoers along the buffet line.


http://definitelyfilipino.comSpaghetti is a popular food during Noche Buena. It’s a pasta dish well known to children and adults since it’s easy to prepare and doesn’t cost that much. The Filipino-style spaghetti is sweet, with slices of hotdogs and topped with grated cheddar cheese on top. Macaroni salad is another pasta-based dish during Christmas. It is prepared in advance and stored in several containers or plastic bags. This makes it easy for the host to serve the salad since all she has to do is get one container, put it in a serving platter and serve it to guests, expected or otherwise.



Filipinos have sweet tooth and during the Holidays, a deluge of sweet foods abound: cakes, cupcakes, brownies, cookies, chocolates, candies, and dessert salads. Almost every household has Buko salad in the freezer. It consists of shredded young coconut meat, canned fruit salad, and sweetened with sugar and condensed milk. An alternative to Buco salad is the Fruit salad. It is similar to Buko salad but the Fruit salad doesn’t have young coconut meat.


Writing this article, I asked my mother what Noche Buena was like when she was young. She told me of their family custom when she was a child called “nahipo ng taib.” On Christmas eve, she and her siblings were not allowed to eat meat. At that time, meat was a luxury food item and not all families were able to afford it. People only had meat dishes when there was a special occasion like a fiesta or Christmas. My grandfather prepared dinner as he waited for his children who were attending Mass. The children would arrive and on the dinner table was a simple setting of plates. The main attraction for the night was soy-marinated fried pork slices. My mother reminisced that it was just a plain dish but all of them were eager to get a taste of that fatty pork. Since fish and vegetables were their staple food then, eating pork on a Christmas eve dinner was like heaven to them. How different from today when meat is easily available and accessible to people.


Christmas is the season when families and friends come together and re-connect. Misunderstandings and quarrels are set aside to make way for a joyous and festive celebration that only comes once a year. Times may have changed, people may have moved to different places, but being together with your loved ones during Christmas is one tradition that is engrained in every Filipinos’ hearts.




Photo credits:

Figure 1 http://www.flickr.com

Figure 2 http://definitelyfilipino.com

Figure 3 http://panlasangpinoy.com



About the Author

 Joyce Dimaculangan is a freelance writer who has written articles on a wide range of topics from information technology to lifestyle and wellness. She enjoys eating local foods, trying new dishes, and buying organic produce as much as possible. You can follow her on Twitter @joysi_writer.