Cultural Notes


           The Parol ... 
The star lantern (we call it parol) is the most popular Philippine christmas symbol. Wehreas belen isfound only in churches and affluent homes, the star is everywhere. All that is needed to make a star lantern are ten long and five short pieces of bamboo, string, starch and rile paper. Rare is the ruralist who cannot make a star lantern; no hone is without one during Christmastide.
The star lantern is a Filipino innovation of the Mexican pinata, which originally came from Renaissance Italy where, during festive occasions,pineapple-shaped pots where filled with sweets and suspended from the ceiling and broken to enliven the celebration. The custom spread from the Apermine to the Iberian peninsula across the Pacific to the Philippines. In the process, the Filipinos also influenced the Mexican fiesta for not only the lanterns but all the ornaments of Chinese paper, the fireworks, the cockfights and some of the luscious fruits in Mexican celebrations originally from the Manila Galleon.

The five-point lantern represents the star of Bethlehem. Filipinos probably could not have picked on a better symbol. In life, stars produce the elements that make life possible; in death, the seeds of new stars and planets are sown across the heavens.

Of all Philippine christmas symbols, it is only the humble star lantern that evolved into spectacular heights. Each lantern represents the synergistic endeavor of a barrio; from a design, the men prepare the wooden frame; women assess the cost of materials; children work on the paper patterns; and professionals are hired to work on the complicated generator-powered lighting complex that will produce the kaleidoscope effect.