In a land where there is no winter or snow, trimmings traditional in the west are notably absent in the Philippines. Religion is at the heart of the holiday celebrations and the Filipinos undoubtedly take the celebration part of it very seriously. In The Land of Fiestas, as the country is aptly named, global traditions give way to a two-week celebration conducted according to their native customs. From the first early morning mass on December16 to the Feast of the Three Kings on the first Sunday of January, the Filipino spends at least a fortnight in seasonal merriment. All the festivities, however, pale in comparison to the Noche Buena, or night of Christmas Eve, which conceivably begins when the Filipinos wake up to the Simbang Gabi, their ninth and final early morning dawn mass on the 24th. On returning home, adults start the preparations for the midnight family feast that will continue on to Christmas Day. The house is decorated with the traditional Parol lantern, the Filipino symbol of Christmas that represents the star of Bethlehem, and the rest of the day is spent in the kitchen, ensuring that the midnight guests have plenty to be merry about. For the hungry friends, relatives and neighbours who have received an invitation to this veritable open house of food, the noche is buena indeed. The feast is laid out in a steaming buffet of barbecued meats, rice, western and native rice cakes, and lechon baboy, pancit, adobo, and lumpia - that's an assortment of roasted pig, stir-fried noodles, marinated meat, and spring rolls. The adults gather in the family room for some entertainment, which the children generously provide. As the rowdy night stretches into the next day, the young entertainers already have another event to attend in their busy itinerary. The children make their rounds on Christmas Day, visiting elderly relatives, aunts, uncles and godparents, who bestow them with a small gift of confectionery, money or toys for the pleasure of their merry company. They pay particular attention to the deeply revered lola, or grandmother, and step up one by one to receive a blessing and a gift of coins from the matriarch of the family. After the last Maligayang Pasko (Merry Christmas) has been shouted into the tropical air, the families head back to the homes that they had left in cheer to clean up and get some rest.