The Stars That Guide: What’s a Parol?

Noche Buena, Simbang Gabi, caroling, and the much-anticipated puto bumbong are just a few of the Christmas customs in the Philippines. But one that sticks out as a true reflection of the Filipino tradition of enjoying the season is the parol.

What is a “parol”?

A parol is a star-shaped lantern that is commonly crafted of bamboo, and Japanese paper. Originally, candles were used as the primary light source. The lantern not only adds to the symbolism of parol, but it also displays Filipino artistry. The parol has developed over time into enchanting lanterns of various colors, forms, and sizes.

Where did “parol” come from?

The parol originated during the Spanish colonial period in the Philippines when the colonizers brought Christianity to the Filipinos. The term parol is based on the Latin word farol, which means lantern. Parol serves as a symbol of the Bethlehem star, which guided the Three Wise Men in their search for the infant Jesus.

Back in the early 1900s, the parol was created and used by the locals as a lantern to illuminate the pathways leading to the 9-day Simbang Gabi or Misas de Aguinaldo festival, which the people were expected to participate in. It was believed that when the locals got home, they hung it outside their house rather than placing it somewhere else.

This practice of parol-making has a meaningful message than merely being stylish; it also represents that Filipinos are preserving values and culture. Parol embodies the Filipino spirit of creativity, excellence, and resourcefulness. It is a unique and traditional craft and a manifestation of the Filipino Christmas celebration.