Every year around Christmas time, the wife and I like to drive around various neighborhoods looking at all the different Christmas lights people have hung on their homes. Although the wife likes to ooh and ahh at all that is bright and blinky, I just like seeing how many Filipino households I can spot during these night-time drive-bys.
How is it that I can pick out a single Filipino household from the hundreds of other twinkling homes? My Filipino readers may already know the answer to this, but I'll clue everyone else in too. In addition to the normal strings of Christmas lights stapled/nailed/duct taped to the eaves of houses, Filipinos may sometimes display a large star-shaped lantern, called a Parol, in their windows or on the outside of the home.
For instance, here's a look at my parents' home with a Christmas Parol in their window:
And here's a look at me and the wife's place with our Parol in one of our upper windows:
I know, the single string of lights at our place is totally weaksauce, but me and ladders are mortal enemies.
Originally, Parols in the Philippines were made from simple materials like bamboo sticks, Japanese rice paper, and candles that were lit from within the fragile lantern. Nowadays, Parols are lit with electric bulbs and are made with anything from Capiz shells, to plastic and metal. You can buy overpriced Parols online, but they are also sold for much less at Filipino markets.
Here's a closer look at my Parol:
Plastic keeps everything safe and clean.
I like to keep my Parol wrapped in its original plastic packaging because, well, because I'm Filipino and I like to keep things wrapped in plastic. Also, my Parol is made of very fragile Capiz shells that allow the blinky electric bulbs on the inside to shine through. Parols are generally star-shaped, though mine is also shaped like a Sampaguita flower (at least that's what the tag says). The Sampaguita is the national flower of the Philippines.
The significance of a Parol to Filipinos is that it represents the Star of Bethlehem that guided the Three Wise Men to Lil' Baby Jesus. Therefore, Parols are a very fitting tradition to the Christmas season and thankfully, it's a tradition that has been continued by Filipino Americans all across the U.S. I know that there are even Parol festivals and Parol-making workshops--at least there are in California--every December.
In keeping with the Parol theme, I thought I'd share some Christmas cookies with you, star-shaped Christmas cookies.
Of course, the wife baked these cookies, not me. She makes sugar cookies every year and usually adorns them with colored frosting and sprinkly thingies.
This year, however, I did chop up some Candied Kalamansi Peel and studded some of the cookies with the sweet rinds.
I know it doesn't look like it, but in the picture above, the candied kalamansi is firmly entrenched in the cookies--just make sure you press them into the dough prior to sticking in the oven. You could use any sugar cookie recipe you want, but we used this Alton Brown recipe with great results.
Kalamansi in these too?
In addition to the sugar cookies, the wife also made some citrus-glazed ginger cookies from this Sunset recipe. But again, I did find a way to work Kalamansi into these cookies by using Kalamansi juice, instead of lemon juice, in the glaze that was drizzled onto the cookies. We love these sweet, spicy, and chewy ginger cookies so much that the wife bakes them every year as well.
The glaze also worked well on the sugar cookies.
Anyhoo, now that you know how to locate and identify a Filipino household based on the presence of a brightly shining star, it's not a bad idea to make friends with the inhabitants of that household so that you can mooch some delicious Filipino food--at least that's what I would do if I weren't Filipino.
Merry Christmas everyone.