Christmas season in the Philippines runs from September through December. First introduced to the Philippines by the Spanish, the parol (pronounced pah-roll) derives its name from the Spanish word for lantern, farol. The parol was used to light the way to the church for Simbang Gabi, also known as Misa de Gallo or Rooster Mass, a nine day novena that culminates on Christmas Eve. After mass, families gather together for a big feast to celebrate the season.
The parol was originally crafted by artisan Francisco Estanislao in 1928, whose creation was made of bamboo strips covered with papél de japón (Japanese paper), illuminated by a candle. Over the years, parols have evolved from the five-pointed star to more elaborate illuminated capiz shell lanterns you commonly see today.
In the Philippines, the parol has become an iconic symbol of the Filipino Christmas and is as important to Filipinos as the Christmas Tree is to Western cultures. Its annual debut on houses and streets is usually in September along with other Christmas symbols, signaling the coming of the season. These lanterns remain until January, traditionally removed after Epiphany, to honor the Three Kings and their visit to the infant Jesus.