Big on every Filipino family’s calendar are the Christmas and New Year’s holidays and all the days in between. These are the days for bringing relatives together for merriment and lots of catching up.
The Christmas celebration has two parts: the midnight meal on Christmas Eve and the gathering at any mealtime or all-day on Christmas Day. New Year’s merrymaking usually happens at midnight on New Year’s Eve as everyone sleeps in the next day.
Rich, flavorful Filipino food are the natural highlights of these gatherings. They are extraordinary gustatory experiences, feasts unrivaled anywhere in the world.
For the midnight meals, Media Noche on Christmas Eve and Noche Buena on New Year’s, there will be Christmas ham or pork barbecue and lumpiang shanghai and pancit or spaghetti. Spaghetti carbonara has gained popularity over the more traditional Bolognese of late.
Also, there would usually be a selection of kakanins – puto bumbong, bibingka, and a variety of sticky sumans. The soft and cheesy ensaymada will also be on the table. Queso de bola, a ball-shaped Edam cheese, will be cut and served with the sweet and savory dishes.
For drinks, it’s all about cutting the evening chill. Cups of steaming, hot chocolate (tsokolate) or salabat are generally preferred over wines and cold drinks which, of course, will also be available.
The daytime meals are bound to be more opulent. The kakanins, the Pinay’s go-to offerings, will form part of the dessert and merienda spread.
Christmas ham, lechon or pork barbecue present good choices for meat dishes. The ham is a sweet-cured creation shimmering in syrup and garnished with pineapple or cherries. Other delightful options are chicken galantine and relyeno or inihaw na bangus/ milkfish.
The Pinay’s holiday feast is not only packed with flavor, it is very attractive, an inviting, colorful banquet.
The rice dish would be arroz Valenciana, a homey recipe that creates a turmeric-yellowed sticky rice backdrop for a fusion of chicken, shrimp, chorizos, carrots, potatoes, peas, green beans, raisins and bell peppers. On the side would be other delectables – pancit canton, pancit bihon or spaghetti, chicken macaroni salad decorated with kaong and nata de coco, embutido or meat loaf and many more.
Everything is finally capped with all sizes and flavors of cakes and the quintessential fruit salad made from syrup-soaked tropicals and multi-colored nata de coco in condensed milk.