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A few weeks ago, my dad excitedly showed me a commercial he saw while browsing Disney+, which featured a Filipino family celebrating Christmas.

In true Disney fashion, the short animated ad told a heartwarming story about a girl who spends every Christmas with her immigrant grandmother. Every year, the two of them would mark the beginning of the Holiday season by creating a star-shaped lantern that they would hang in their house's window. As the little girl grew up, she eventually drifted apart from her grandmother to the point where she would prefer to go out with her friends on Christmas rather than spend one evening making her grandmother's traditional star-shaped lantern. However, all is mended when the girl decides to surprise her grandmother by making, hanging, and lighting up many star-shaped lanterns for her. With tears in her eyes, the lights remind the grandmother of her time in the Philippines as a little girl -- when all her neighbors would hang up their lanterns in anticipation of Christmas. 

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In the Philippines, this star-shaped lantern is called a PAROL, and it is the symbol of the Holiday season in the country. This tradition's origins are Catholic in nature, as the lantern's shape and light are meant to represent the Star of Bethlehem that guided the three wise men to the new-born baby Jesus. For some, hanging one in front of your house becomes a way of declaring to others that Jesus lives within the house and among the family members who occupy it. With this in mind, parols come in different sizes and colors, but Filipinos usually reserve their biggest and brightest parols to hang over their house.

During the Holiday season, there are also festivals in the Philippines that solely focus on celebrating and putting parols on display. One of the famous festivals we have is the Giant Lantern Festival in the province of Pampanga. There you will truly see how big and bright parols can get as well as the creativity that comes with conceptualizing, designing, and creating these ornaments. I still fondly remember the anticipation I felt when waiting for the sun to set so my family and I could visit one of these lantern festivals. These star-shaped lights are absolutely mesmerizing in the dark. Here are a couple of pictures, videos, and links that you can check out to see these parols in their full glory! 

[bf_image id="cj5xmts9nsvv23646w6j3jpz"] What I really liked about Disney's ad featuring parols is that it reflects my own experience as an immigrant celebrating Christmas in a foreign country. For many, the Holiday season is about tradition, family, and friends, and yet moving to another country in 2017 meant getting used to new practices that were so different from my own. While I kept an open mind and was eager to try new things, it was still saddening to think that I had left behind customs that defined what "Christmas" meant to me. And during that time, Christmas wasn't Christmas until my family and I hung up our parol. However, as my mom drove us to my grandparents' house to celebrate the Holidays, I saw that my grandmother had hung up a star-shaped lantern in front of their house. They were the only ones in the neighborhood with a parol, but that was enough.

Much like the girl and the grandmother in the ad, simply seeing the star-shaped lantern hang above my family's house was enough to make Christmas seem right and complete to me. 

Nyle De Leon

Cal Lutheran '21

Born and raised in the Philippines, and then moved to California, Nyle is CLU English major with a creative writing emphasis. She loves everything that has to do with language, whether it be reading, writing or speaking -- you name it, she loves it. If not writing for herself or others, Nyle can be found talking about her favorite stories and shows, creating decent art, and maybe ice skating.
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