The Christmas Lantern Festival and Diwali

INTRODUCTION

The Holy Family’s Nativity scene has the most significant Christmas meaning, symbolizing the Messiah’s birth. In Pampanga, Philippines, they have the Giant Lantern Festival. Meanwhile, India has Diwali, their most well-known holiday of the year.

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Christmas is in the air.  Lights have lit up the city.  Fiesta ham and queso de bola are on the grocery shelves, ready to be served on the festively decorated table. The Christmas trees are adorned nicely. Families gather to celebrate their Noche Buena on Christmas Eve after they attend Misa de Gallo.  Christmas music fills each place you go to.  People smile more and are kinder at this time of the year.

Those who lived abroad, especially Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), and missed seeing their families for a long time, often go home during the Christmas holidays and celebrate this jovial occasion. Christmas is the most celebrated time of the year for the Filipinos.

After years of quarantine protocols and lockdowns, Christmas has become more special this year and in the years to come. Seeing the happy smiles on everyone’s faces and feeling their warm hugs give a whole lot more meaning to the celebration of Christ’s birth.  Yet again, we can find what it means for Jesus to be born to become the Messiah, the Savior, especially in these hard times. We are now transitioning from pandemic to endemic.  The Lord has given us that hope.

LIGHT AS THE SYMBOL OF GOOD OVER EVIL

Lantern lights have become the symbol of hope.  As the Three Kings had the constellation of stars as their compass in finding baby Jesus, modern times have traditions. The Filipinos have Christmas lanterns called Parol while the Hindus of India have the Festival of Lights called Diwali or Dipawali.

It feels like you are transported back in time when you go to the northern city of San Fernando especially during these holidays. The night sky stars in Pampanga are outshined by their Giant Lantern Festival.  Known in Kapampangan (local language) as Parul Sampernandu, it is held annually from mid-December to New Year’s.  They’re not your typical lights that deck the bustling city.  It is a feast for the eyes to see the Christmas lanterns lit up as a colorful display of lights.

Standing at 20ft. in height, the varied designs highlight the wonderful creations and detailed workmanship of the craft by the parol makers. Competing barangays in Pampanga participated in the festival. Not only did they have to create the parol but the parol makers synchronize the lights with a variety of songs from Paskong Himig (Christmas songs) to what’s playing on the radio for the festival.

The Giant Lantern Festival sends messages of hope, peace, faith, unity, and healing of the land. It has become one of the most celebrated festivals here in the Philippines at Christmas for Filipinos and foreigners visiting.  Bring a piece of the Philippines’ Christmas home with a Filipino-crafted parol.

In India, Hindus believe that they are protected from spiritual darkness. They light up their houses with avali row of clay lamps called deepa. The Festival of Lights for Hindus is as important as Christmas is for Christians. The Festival of Lights, also called Diwali, is a five-day national festival in October. Nowadays, even non-Hindu communities participate in the festival. Like Christmas, Diwali also celebrates the “victory of good over evil.”

KEEPING HOPE AND FAITH ALIVE IN CHRISTMAS

Wherever you may revel on this joyous occasion of Christmas and the Lantern Lights, always remember to keep the hope and faith alive as the Lord Christ was born to save us.  As we have embarked on the “new normal,” may we never forget what the pandemic taught us–to cherish each moment, savor life, and be grateful for God’s blessings.  The pandemic might have put a lot of lives on hold globally, but it gave us a lot of time to reflect on what is good and on the preciousness of family, friends, and loved ones.  If years ago the common theme was forgiveness at Christmas time, now it has been about hope.

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year, everybody! As the birth of Jesus Christ gave us hope that we will be saved, may we also give the gift of hope to others. It can be words or acts of kindness done not only at Christmas but throughout the year. Be that ray of light in somebody’s dark world. Let them feel God’s love through positivity and goodness. Let’s celebrate in cheers of gathering with family and friends as one. Let’s ring in this year with humbling gratitude after all the hardship. Christ is mankind’s salvation.

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