The Philippines holds the world record for having the longest Christmas season. When the first "ber" month begins (September is the first "ber" month), malls start playing Christmas carols and selling Christmas decor and gift items. It's always amusing to find Halloween costumes being sold side by side with Christmas trees but that's how it is.
In groceries and supermarkets, traditional Christmas food start to make an appearance too. Ham and queso de bola (Edam cheese) start to fill the freezers and shelves. These two, along with hot chocolate made from the local tablea and pan de sal, are noche buena staples.
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Rice is, to Filipinos, what bread is to Westerners. For important occasions, rice is served in a very special way. Paella, an iconic Spanish dish, has been adopted by the Filipinos with gusto. Saffron might not be a standard in Filipino cooking but we have our own ways of coloring and flavoring our paella.
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Our Christmas Dinner at Home
Although my husband and I both grew up with all the trappings of Christmas, we have outgrown the need for lavish meals during the holidays. We have also swapped personal preference for tradition. We still prepare fruit salad, for instance, but with diced fresh fruit instead of canned fruit cocktail. Instead of a whole leg of ham which might prettify the dinner table but which takes us three months to consume, we buy assorted cold meat instead. And in lieu of queso de bola which I never liked all my life, we opt for several varieties of cheese in smaller amounts.