Filipino Icon: Parol
A ‘Parol’ is a Filipino Christmas lantern. Its name comes from the Spanish word, ‘farol’ which means lantern. It is said that the Parol was first created in 1928, by a Francisco Estanislao, a craftsman from San Fernando, Pampanga. Today, the city of San Fernando celebrates the parol by holding a festival called Ligligan Parul, coinciding with the Filipino nine-day Christmas tradition of ‘Simbang Gabi’ a novena mass held at the crack of dawn.
Traditionally, it is made with bamboo and Japanese paper, and has a star design. Today however, this lovely lantern is constructed out of anything from metal, to seashells, and even old soft drink straws!
The Philippines is the only predominantly Roman-Catholic nation in Southeast Asia, and Catholicism has permeated virtually every aspect of Filipino life. One strong example of this is the fact that the Parol’s traditional star shape is meant to evoke the Star of Bethlehem, which guided the Three Kings to the Christ-child’s manger.
The star isn’t the only shape Parols come in nowadays though. Snowflakes, flowers, sea urchins, and Christmas-themed imagery like Santa’s face, reindeer, and angels have all been illuminated in this ingenious expression of Christmas hope and cheer.