Friday, November 20, 2009

Philippine Christmas lanterns galore

The Philippines reputedly has the longest Christmas season celebration in the whole world, and homes and establishments, from the simplest to the grandest, are never wanting in lights and decorations to help mark the occasion. No matter what the economic situation is.

Philippine Christmas lanterns (locally called parol) of various shapes (usually star shape), sizes, designs, materials (some use recycled or reused materials), kaleidoscope-like flashing colors, lighting patterns, and prices are among the most popular Christmas decorations in the country. They are also among the favorite items to bring along for Filipinos who live abroad and foreigners who visit the Philippines. The most favored and prized of these lanterns for their designs and quality are made in the province of Pampanga, north of the country’s capital Manila.

But other places outside Pampanga have also produced their own versions of the Philippine Christmas lanterns. Many of the Christmas lantern manufacturers in the country are home-based, with family members and close neighbors pitching in the work. The lanterns are, therefore, not just a showcase of craft and creativity but also a labor of love. But, most of all, a wonderful reminder of Filipinos’ joyous celebration of the best occasion of all—the birth of Jesus.

Buyers of Philippine Christmas lanterns need not go to Pampanga or other provinces to get their stuff. Although going direct to the sources can have advantages as in any other kind of purchase. But the lanterns are also available in the cities from sidewalk stalls, some ambulant vendors, department stores, and malls. (Some years ago, they weren't that easy to be obtained.) Prices range from a few hundred pesos to more than a thousand. A gift for haggling for a lower price comes in handy. But each lantern is a creative piece and a joy to the senses, so paying some big bucks for it is definitely worth the price.

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