Christmas is one of the most revered holidays by the Filipinos. In the Philippines, Christmas songs would be played as early as September, or the “Ber” months. Malls and flea markets will be filled with people, who would spend months of preparation for gifts, parties and family gatherings.
However, one of the most important symbols in Philippine Christmas is not the hamon or queso de bola, but the parol. This star-shaped lantern can be found hanging outside homes and along the streets all through the Christmas season. It holds a deeper meaning to Filipinos, that making a parol, decorating one and lighting it is an expression of shared faith and hope.
In San Francisco, Filipinos get to feel the spirit of Christmas and home at the annual San Francisco Parol Lantern Festival and Parade. Started in 2003, this event showcases hundreds of beautiful handmade parols.
The festival begins with a series of parol lantern-making workshops held at the Bayanihan Community Center at 1010 Mission Street, from 5:30pm to 8pm, every Friday until December 9. Parol workshops are open to the public. You can also buy your own parol kit, starting from a 12-inch parol for $5.00 to a 60-inch parol at $12.00. The kit includes everything you need to get started building a star lantern—bamboo sticks, twist ties, rubber bands, tissue paper and cellophane.
Now on its ninth year, the Parol Festival will be on Saturday, December 10, from 5pm to 8pm. This year’s theme is Pag-Asa: Bright visions for the future, which will be creatively interpreted and expressed by contingents who will join the festive parade. The parade will display all lanterns hoping to vie for the esteemed Tala Award Grand Prize.
The whole evening will be filled with music, games and prizes, opening at 5pm with entertainment and Parol Gallery at the Jessie Square. Parol Parade starts at 6:15pm at the Yerba Buena Gardens, marching towards Yerba Buena Lane to Jessie Square.
The program and Tala Awards will be held in Jessie Square, an outdoor event. However, in case of rain, the parade will be cancelled and all program activities will take place inside St. Patrick’s Church at 6:30. The Jessie Square, St. Patrick’s Church and Yerba Buena Gardens are located between 3rd and 4th Street in South of Market.
The Parol Festival is now one of the much awaited and must-see event in San Francisco during the holiday season. In addition to the live entertainments, display of San Fernando lanterns, the organizers offer a lot of prizes for the audience participation in the game “Give me ... this Christmas!” The prizes are courtesy of Mrs. Fields’ Cookies (Sutter branch), Seafood City, Rainbow Grocery, Starbucks, Jamba Juice, Subway and many more.
The Parol Festival is presented by the Filipino American Development Foundation and KulArts, in partnership with the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, MJM Management, St. Patrick’s Parish, and supported by the Grants for the Arts, Yerba Buena Community Benefit District, ABS-CBN International, Alliance for California Traditional Arts, GMA Pinoy TV, and Western Union.