Filipinos are known to be very passionate about the holidays. In fact, Filipinos notoriously have the longest celebration for Christmas starting in September (also known as ber-months).
Christmas is the Filipino holiday that stands out among all others with the centerpiece event: Noche Buena. This is the night when families gather around their tables and share a delicious meal together.
What is Noche Buena?
Noche Buena is a Filipino Christmas tradition celebrated on Christmas Eve. It marks the beginning of Christmas Day celebrations in many Filipino households.
The word “noche buena” literally means “good evening” in Spanish and was added to our culture when Spain introduced Christianity to our country.
The tradition has evolved over time with each generation adding their own spin on it.
Some families spend the entire week before Christmas preparing the meals, some households prefer to order their noche buena from vendors and local restaurants, others prefer to dine out. The modern Filipino family celebrates noche buena in their own unique ways that allow them to be festive without having to sacrifice much time in preparing food.
Here are some dishes that make up the modern Filipino noche buena.
Just like the traditional noche buena, this new version still has the classic lechon. Lechon is a roasted pig for large families, or a roasted chicken for smaller celebrations.
The lechon is usually served with rice, lechon sauce, and banana ketchup.There are different versions across our islands. Some serve the lechon whole on a long buffet table, some places offer choice cuts of pork. No matter how it’s served, one thing remains constant: lechon makes everything better!
Hamon (also known as jamon de bola) is a round cut of pork typically served with a sweet, tangy sauce. It can also be drizzled over adobo or other savory dishes.
The ingredients are simple: sugar, vinegar, and ground red pepper (cayenne). Boil all three together until the mixture is reduced to about half its original volume.
Pour into a strainer set over a bowl and let cool; use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Hamon (also known as jamon de bola) is a round cut of smoked and cured pork served with a sweet, tangy sauce. Anyone can find hamon in any supermarket around the Philippines, especially during the holiday season.
It is a mainstay dish during noche buena and is prepared either by boiling, frying, or roasting. Usually served as the main course, hamon is frequently served with other foods such as lechon, spaghetti, pancit, and other desserts.
Pancit palabok is a beloved and festive noodle dish in the Philippines that is considered one of the nation’s most cherished dishes. It features rice noodles, succulent shrimp, savory pork belly, and a hard-boiled egg, all topped with a rich sauce made from pork broth, shrimp cubes, ground pork, and annatto powder.
This mouthwatering noodle dish has been delighting taste buds since the 1970s, when it was introduced to Manila by Chinese immigrants. Serving pancit palabok and other types of pancit during important events and celebrations are said to extend the lives of the people who eat it, that’s why it’s present in almost every occasion, especially during noche buena.
Pancit palabok is rich and filling and has become a treasured dish among Filipinos and a must-have dish during the holiday season.
A unique modification of the traditional Italian dish spaghetti bolognese, Filipino spaghetti is now a staple at gatherings throughout the Philippines.
Slices of hot dogs and grated cheese are usually applied to the sweet and savory sauce, which is normally made with ground pork, tomato sauce, and sugar. This meal is a favorite for special occasions and is frequently served with other classic Filipino dishes like pork adobo and lechon. Filipino spaghetti is a delicious addition to any festive occasion and brings a certain nostalgic flavor to the holidays thanks to its sweet and savory ingredients.
Filipino Christmas celebrations often include a variety of side dishes, which are just as important as the main dish. They complement the heavier main meals and provide a different flavor to break up the umay we experience when we eat rich foods.
Some popular side dish options include macaroni salad, which is made with elbow macaroni, diced vegetables, and a mayonnaise-based dressing; Another common side dish is barbecue, which consists of grilled cuts of meat on a skewer such as pork or chicken (and sometimes shrimp), marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, and spices.
Other specific holiday side dishes include bibingka, a type of rice cake made with coconut milk and topped with butter, cheese, and salted eggs, and puto bungbong, a sweet rice cake made with purple yam and coconut milk. These side dishes are all excellent additions to the modern Filipino Noche Buena table.
What do you do when you’re too busy to make Noche Buena?
Things aren’t always easy for the modern Filipino family. Work schedules, last minute adjustments, and other commitments abound during the holiday season, so it’s not always possible to prepare a traditional Noche Buena.
The good news is that you can still celebrate with your family!
One option is to order finger foods from the deli counter at your local grocery store or market. Another option is to celebrate with a potluck and have family members contribute their own meals to your noche buena table.
Modern Pinoy families also simply choose to dine out for Christmas Eve to avoid the dishes. Or you can avoid the outdoor holiday traffic and rush and just order your noche buena meals from a local restaurant!
Regardless of how you choose to celebrate, it’s important to spend time with your loved ones and make the most of the holiday season.
If you’re too busy to prepare a traditional noche buena feast for your family, there are still ways to celebrate the holiday. HOLA offers bulk ordering for an easier, tastier, merrier noche buena celebration. Order for your family today for a happier holiday!