Parols are the traditional Christmas lanterns in the Philippines that are hung outside houses as decoration. Made in the shape of a star with five or more points, they symbolize the Star of Bethlehem.
The traditional materials for making parols are mostly simple -- bamboo sticks, Japanese rice paper, and crepe paper. In modern times, plastic, heavier paper, cellophane and capiz are also used. The traditional candle or oil lantern inside has been replaced by electric lights.
The city of San Fernando is known for making the grandest and largest parols, with flashing and changing lights in various colors. During their Giant Lantern Festival, they parade parols 20 ft. or more in height mounted on truck beds.
The parol-making tradition clearly began after the Christianization of the Philippines. The word parol comes from farol, which is Spanish for lantern (an allusion to the famed lighthouse of Pharos). World Book's Christmas in the Philippines suggests that the parol originated from the Mexican piñata, which like the parol is decorated with crepe paper. The piñata, originally from Italy, was brought to Spain and from there to Mexico then finally to the Philippines when the Spaniards brought Christianity to the country and galleon trade with Mexico began.
According to A Child's Pasko: Christmas in the Philippines, the parol's original function was to light the way of those going to church for each Misa de Gallo and the Misa de Aguinaldo. The paper lampshades were originally shaped like fleur-de-lis or crosses. Rather than storing their lanterns in between uses, the owners chose to display them. The people would try to outdo each other's designs, coming up with more beautiful and innovative designs each year. The typical design that eventually resulted was that of a five-pointed star with tassels that suggested a comet's tail. The practice of making parols was encouraged by the Church and resulted in the elevation of parol-making to an art. To this day, new innovations are being made to the design of parol lanterns.
- The History of Parol Christmas Lanterns. My Parol. (Accessed November 28, 2008)
- Christmas Traditions. Views from the Pampang. (Accessed November 28, 2007)