The History of Parol and It’s Importance in Every Filipino Christmas Tradition


Without the brilliant, glittering, and colorful parol, which is a traditional Christmas lantern in the Philippines, the holiday season will not be as thrilling. The beginning of the parol’s history is regarded as occurring during the time of Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines, when the Spaniards converted the Filipinos to Christianity.

Where did Parol Come From?

What is parol? In 1908, a salt dealer from Bacolor, Pampanga named Francisco Estanislao built a large Christmas lamp that the locals began referring to as the parol. The name “parol” is derived from the Spanish word “farol,” which means “lantern,” and it also refers to the dazzling star that led the Three Kings to the manger where the infant Jesus was laid. And also yearly celebration in the Philippines’ City of San Fernando, the Giant Lantern Festival (Kapampangan: Ligligan Parul) takes place in the middle of December. Giant parol lantern competition is a staple of the festival. The city is known as the Lantern Capital of the Philippines or also known as “Christmas Capital of the Philippines” as a result of the festival’s widespread popularity.

Parol as an Important Representation in Filipino Christmas

A deep reason or representation for the parol’s continued existence can be found behind its lengthy history. Along with being a representation of the birth of Christ, it also represents the triumph of light over darkness, the actual meaning of Christmas, and the resourcefulness that is uniquely Filipino. Here are some important piece of information why it’s so meaningful and some places where to get parol in the Philippines.

Making parols is a crucial aspect of Filipino culture, art, and heritage. In the 1830s, the devout frequently organized a religious procession known as the lubenas, which included lights in the shapes of fish called asan, a cross, and 12 others, which stood for Jesus Christ and his 12 apostles. Later on, Francisco Estanislao is credited with creating the first enormous Parol in 1908, which is considered to have been the start of the parol-making industry. He used papel de Japon (Japanese paper) and bamboo strips to make a conventional five-pointed star parol, that was illuminated with candle or kalburo. Since that time, a number of Filipinos have created their own parols using 6- to 8-pointed stars that have been adorned with a variety of materials.

The First Parol Custom

During the Spanish colonial era in the Philippines, the parol custom first emerged. It is a local adaptation of the Hispanic custom of carrying small light sources (like torches, candles, or braziers) during the nine-day Christmas Novena procession leading up to the midnight mass (known as Simbang Gabi in the Philippines).

The parol is only used for the Christmas Novena procession; in other types of Novena processions in the Philippines, lit candles are carried by participants instead. They are particularly linked to the Panunulyan pageant, which depicts Joseph and the expectant Virgin Mary looking for accommodation in Bethlehem and is part of the procession. The locals and the actors playing Joseph and Mary carried paper lanterns made of bamboo and Japanese paper (papel de japón). These lanterns were hung outside of homes as decorations after the parade.

They eventually developed into a crucial component of Filipino Christmas custom. In a letter written by José Rizal in 1893, he emphasizes the importance of the parol in the traditional Philippine Christmas celebrations. Rizal requested Japanese paper be sent to him while he was living in exile in Dapitan, so he could “celebrate Christmas properly.”

Powered Lanterns

In the 1940s, the first battery-powered lamps with incandescent bulbs were created. A rotor mechanism for parols was created in 1957 by lantern maker Rodolfo David. The parol was utilized for Barangay Santa Lucia’s annual submission in the San Fernando, Pampanga Giant Lantern Festival, which they subsequently won from 1957 to 1959. To program the light and music, his parol used revolving steel drums with wires on hairpins. This served as the model for the commercial electric parols known as Parul Sampernandu that began to be introduced in 1964.

Today’s Parol: Modern-day Christmas Lanterns

As time passed, the lantern changed into a more ornate, opulent, and brilliantly lit holiday decoration. Other materials, such capiz shells with sophisticated lighting, have become popular in addition to the original parol style. The lantern illustrates Filipino craftsmanship in addition to adding to the idea of parol. Competitions are held in many areas, including villages, schools, and clubs, to see who can create the finest parol. Every year, the province of Pampanga hosts the Giant Lantern Festival, which draws artisans from all across the archipelago.

Top 3 Places to buy Christmas Lanterns or Parol in Manila

1. Parolan bazaar

Physical Store: Times Square Avenue, Cubao, Quezon City

The Parolan Bazaar is located right in the center of Cubao. Considerably when products are decently priced, buyers can still get them for even less money if they play their cards well. The bazaar sells parols (lanterns), which start at PhP400  and for those who prefer more conventional patterns for Christmas this year, there are also parols made of abaca. You will definitely receive your money’s worth for only Php450 because Abaca is renowned for being exceptionally strong and long-lasting. If you want your stars to have a little touch of brightness. There are gold-lined star decorations are perfect for you. You can choose between orange, white, red, green, and blue for PhP800. Want to take things a step further? Then a unique Capiz Parol is a surefire bet. Any home will feel cheerier with the addition of these vibrant Christmas lanterns! Purchase one of these colorful ornaments at Parolan for between Php2500 and Php4500. (depending on design). If you’re looking for the best, the illuminated Poinsettia Parol is the best item you can get to place in your house. Although it costs Php3500 to Php5000, you may realize why it is worth it once you see the intricate design of the traditional Christmas plant on the Parol. To add to the holiday feel, this chic decor also has red and green lights.

2. Dapitan Arcade

Physical Store: Dapitan Corner, Kanlaon Street, Laurges, Quezon City

Located in Quezon City, the Dapitan Arcade is a tidy flea market. The Cebuano word dapit, which meaning “to invite,” is the origin of the word dapitan. Dapitan Arcade is well known for selling budget price parols. Parols are ideal for any indoor location, from gardens to bedrooms to corridors. For a pleasant light, they can be put in windows, or they can be strung up outside for a show. There are many Christmas lanterns available to select from during the holiday season, but none compares to this distinctive pair of Christmas lanterns below. Here is a list of the most well-known parols at Dapitan Arcade. Christmas Lantern Light with Bamboo Stick ( set of 5) PhP1800. Big multicolor parol PhP3100. White Tala Capiz 24 inches PhP2700. Christmas Starlight parol 2ft PhP700.

3. DJ’s Capiz lantern – lanterns made up of Capiz shells

Physical Store: 760 Delpan Street Binondo, 1006 Manila, Philippines

Traditional Christmas lanterns are created from windowpane oysters or capiz shells for a reason. They are resilient and translucent, yet they also emit a natural charm that is uniquely Filipino. In order to create a Capiz-inspired decoration for your home, visit DJ’s Capiz Lantern in Binondo. They use these shells to create a variety of decorations, such as the traditional parol with vibrant LED lights and lanterns with a lotus design. Start by looking at their 20-inch parol Mini Special with Ring PhP1300, which has a multicolored star in the center and is decorated with lights and white bulbs. But if you’re looking for something different from the usual multicolored parol with a star, they also have inventive designs, like the Mother and Child lantern PhP3000, a 38-inch round lantern with a metal frame.

San Fernando, Pampanga: The Lantern Capital of the Philippines

The lantern capital of the Philippines is centered on San Fernando, Pampanga. They make and design their parol in a certain way. Every December, a sizable number of individuals travel there to visit. Every Filipino’s holiday celebrations already include lanterns.

Read Also: 10 things Pampanga is known for

Adding up, A parol is created piece by piece by careful hands, fusing craft and craftsmanship with culture and history to perhaps celebrate the very essence of the Filipino Christmas. Which can be used for affordable houses and lots or condominiums from BRIA Homes. Parol started to captivate people from all over the world over time. The Philippines, which has numerous festivals and parades that feature lanterns from across the nation, is even often referred to as the Christmas Capital of Asia. The most well-known is Ligligan Parul from San Fernando City.

BRIA Homes, one of the Philippines’ leading housing developers, aims to bring affordable house and lot packages and condominium units closer to ordinary Filipino families. BRIA Homes takes pride in its quick construction time. It uses new home building technologies in every project to reduce construction time without sacrificing quality.