Filipino Christmas Kakanin to Try During Misa De Gallo and Noche Buena


Christmas is truly a season many of us look forward to. The spirit of giving and love is in the air where we also experience colder days, and longer nights. Aside from that, some Filipino desserts and snacks are only around during the ber months. In this article, learn about the Filipino way of Christmas with its best desserts or kakanins you can try during Misa De Gallo or serve at Noche Buena.

Philippines has the longest celebration of the Christmas season all over the world. The first day of September marks the start of the long Christmas celebration for the Filipinos which is commonly known as “Ber” months. 

This long celebration still evolves and becomes more enjoyable with Jose Mari Chan, a popular Filipino singer. He became the face of this season. His songs are often played during the Ber months as most of his songs depict the celebration of a joyful Christmas in the Philippines.

Not only Christmas is filled with fun, enjoyable moments, but there are also activities that show devotion to God during this time. This activity is known as Misa de Gallo or “simbang gabi”. It is a nine-day series of masses attended by Roman Catholics. On normal days, it is common for Filipinos to have a meal with their companions. But Misa de Gallo happens early in the morning before sunrise or late at night. So, the choices of foods are limited. But this is not a problem because during this time, exclusive seasonal kakanin or Christmas desserts are being sold in the vicinity of churches or on the streets.

What is a Kakanin?

Kakanin is an umbrella term for the famous Filipino dessert made of glutinous rice or sticky rice turned into cakes. It came from two Tagalog words “kain” which means to eat and “kanin” which means rice. 

The main ingredients of this dessert are glutinous rice and coconut milk. These ingredients are of great abundance in tropical countries like the Philippines but others simply use sticky rice grains that are either grounded or used as a whole grain to make different variations of kakanin.

Whatever ingredient is used, this simply implies that there are a lot of ways to prepare a kakanin depending on the type, texture, and taste it wants to introduce to the consumers.

In the past, these are prepared as an offering to pre-colonial gods or as a gift of honor to guests. Presently, you might see these during festivals as this is part of the cuisine served during the commemoration of a patron saint. 

Additionally, this is a popular snack for the masses as this is commonly sold and readily available in most of the wet markets in the Philippines or known in Filipino as “palengke”. Sometimes, there are peddlers selling kakanin so you are really lucky if you encounter one especially if you are craving such snack.

During December, especially in church areas, different kakanins are being sold to people especially those who attended the regular mass and Misa de Gallo. 

If you haven’t tried the kakanins sold during this season, for sure, you are missing a lot! With this, here is a guide on what Christmas kakanin to try first if you are a newbie. This may also give you an idea if you want to try a different dessert for Noche Buena.

1. Bibingka

Perhaps, this is undeniably the most famous kakanin during the Christmas season. This is a fluffy cake made with galapong, egg, and coconut milk. This is the kakanin you smell and see on the streets being cooked in an aluminum pan and charcoal stove. This is usually topped with salted egg slices, kesong puti, or regular cheese, and sometimes served with grated coconut milk.

Nevertheless, this is on the top list as this might be the most favorite Christmas kakanin of Filipinos. In fact, when asked about Filipino Christmas, this may be one of the things you can easily remember to symbolize the celebration of Christmas in the Philippines. In fact, a band named Ben & Ben made a Christmas love song that is entitled Bibingka to show love and affection during the nine-day mass devotion of Filipino Catholics. Additionally, former President Aguinaldo loves bibingka. He had a particular person who cooks the kakanin for him and the person was known as “bibingquera ng presidente” which was evidenced by the 1900 ledgers through several cash disbursements for this unnamed cook.

2. Puto Bumbong

Aside from bibingka, puto bumbong is a famous Christmas kakanin. Along with the aluminum pans on the top of charcoal stoves, it is usual to see bamboo tubes on charcoal stoves as well. This is how puto bumbong is cooked, through steaming in bamboo tubes. This delicacy is known for its purple color as this is made with glutinous heirloom rice with a natural purple hue called pirurutong. This is an elongated version of the traditional puto which is served in three or fours with margarine spread, topped with grated coconut meat or cheese and muscovado sugar.

3. Sapin-sapin

This might be a more sophisticated style of Christmas kakanin. This is tri-colored rice cake arranged in circles. The different colors are the different flavors of kakanin included in this sophisticated rice cake. However, what makes this special is that the rice cake has three layers which are purple, yellow, and white in color stacked together. This is a product of love and labor because of the sophisticated way of its preparation. Sapin-sapin in bilao comes with other kakanin like kalamay ube, kalamay mais, kamoteng kahoy, biko, and kutsintang pula. This is usually served with grated and toasted coconut meat known in Filipino as budbod. If you want to taste the best sapin-sapin, you may try Dolor’s Kakanin. It sells such kakanin all-year round. It may be pricey but its texture and unique taste will make its price so much worth it.

4. Sumang Malagkit

This is a widely enjoyed delicacy even on normal days. However, the most delicious sumang malagkit is sold in Antipolo. In fact, it is a staple of the province and has a festival dedicated for this kakanin. Over the years, sumang malagkit evolved and comes with different variations but its core ingredients are not changed. Glutinous rice and coconut milk are the core ingredients of this kakanin which also makes its taste unique, especially when dipped in different sauces like ground nuts and sugar, and caramel.

5. Kutsinta

This is another staple for Filipinos as this is commonly sold in wet markets. In fact, this is a common snack for the Filipino masses. This is a brownish-orange rice cake which is usually served with grated coconut meat but over the years, caramel is being used as a dip for this kakanin. What makes this unique from others is that it makes use of lye water, or lihiya in Filipino, as its core ingredient. Despite its tasty innovations, the origin of this rice cake is still unknown. However, some claims that it originated in two possible ways. The first is it was named after a kitchen tool used to shape the kakanin. The second is it derived its name from the Chinese-Hokkien term for cakes, kueh tsin tao.

The Essence of Nine-Day Mass Devotion of Filipinos

The nine-day mass devotion is a special event for Filipino Catholics as it is believed that your wishes will be granted after you complete this nine-day devotion. Filipinos are surely religious and believed in the divine intervention. So, we pray everything to God especially in times of need. We might have different wishes in life but I think we can come to an agreement that we always wish to have financial stability in life to cater to our needs and have a sustainable future.

With this, we may also be praying for better opportunities which may lead us to have better investments like a house and lot or bigger savings. If you are praying for this, for sure you have a tight budget but there is a real estate developer who understands the tight budget of potential homeowners.

Bria Affordable House and Lots

It offers affordable house and lots which can be financed through bank loans or Pag-IBIG housing loan. For many people, it does not matter if you have the most luxurious lifestyle in the world. For most, it is more important to have a sustainable future especially with the financial crisis we experienced brought by the pandemic. That being said, aside from hard work, we always pray to God to give as enough to answer our needs and do devotion to increase our chances of being closer to God. But what we must be grateful for is the different foods we enjoy in our tables. It provides comfort and an avenue for gathering and bonding. Most importantly, it makes us full and happy in times that we are down and challenged with life.