Just like anywhere else in the world, Christmas in the Philippines is centered around children. Christmas for Filipino children often means that they receive more gifts than the adults and that they are the center of attention, especially on the day itself. Perhaps this is because the first Christmas was about the infant Jesus who was born in humble manger.
In the Philippines, most children participate in two exciting activities which are named the same thing. The word ‘pamamasko’ refers to the act of children asking for small gifts. Christmas for Filipino children officially start on December 16th when they can finally go from house to house, merrily singing Christmas carols to the accompaniment of tambourines, drums or even just two stones pounded against each other. The medley usually ends with high-pitched greeting of “Maligayang Pasko” or “Merry Christmas”.
The caroling is often rewarded by small treats of candies, toys or coins to which they merrily sing “Thank you, thank you, ang babait ninyo, thank you!” (Thank you, thank you, you are so kind, thank you!). Most families set aside their loose change for carolers during Christmas season.
Over the years, this practice by Filipino children during Christmas has been emulated by adults. Small groups of adult carolers carry some instruments and go from house to house to sing to families and spread the Christmas cheer. In Western countries like the United States and Canada, Filipino communities do their own brand of caroling during the season to evoke the Filipino kind of Christmas.
Another kind of pamamasko is when children receive gifts from parents, relatives and godparents. These gifts are called pamasko or aguinaldo. Some children even visit their godparents’ houses to ask for gifts. While this practice may sound very demanding for some, godparents actually take great pleasure in saving up and buying presents for their inaanak (godchildren). The same goes with close relatives who go out of their way to wrap their presents and place them under Christmas trees.
Children also receive little gifts in socks hung on their houses’ front doors. This practice is similar to that in the Western world where children hang stockings by the fireplace where Santa Claus can just climb down with his sack full of treats. Children in the Philippines believe in Santa Claus and do so very adoringly that they constantly remind themselves to be good all year.