By Evelyn Macairan
MANILA, Philippines – A Catholic bishop urged Filipino Catholics to decorate their homes with traditional Christmas lanterns instead of European-inspired wreaths.
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas recently issued a circular titled “Alternative to the Advent Wreath,” in which he extolled the faithful to follow native Christmas traditions.
“Although coming from the Protestant traditions of Europe, the practice of having advent wreaths in Catholic homes and churches has been adopted by many of us in the Catholic Church,” he said.
“While we do not prohibit the continuation of this tradition, may I respectfully offer an alternative to the advent wreath that may be more relevant and meaningful for the Filipino Catholic,” said Villegas.
He said that native Christmas ornaments, such as the parol, a star-shaped lantern, reminds the faithful of the Star of Bethlehem, which, according to Catholic tradition, guided the Magi to the stable where Jesus was born.
“(The parol) is perhaps the most popular symbol of our Filipino Christmas tradition. It calls to mind the search of the wise men in the Gospel of Matthew,” he said.
Villegas said the parol also alludes to the creation account in the Bible that says “God made the two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He also made the stars.”
Also, it alludes to God’s promise to tribe leader Abraham, in the Old Testament, to give him many descendants.
“I will multiply your seed as the stars of the sky, and will give to your seed all these lands. In your seed will all the nations of the earth be blessed,” Villegas quoted from the Bible.
The six-pointed star has also been used to symbolize King David, from whom Jesus was said to have descended.
“Modern day Jews use this as well,” said Villegas.
The bishop urged the priests and laymen in his diocese to promote the “Parol ng Halina” campaign “to help our people celebrate meaningfully the advent season in a way that is truly Catholic and truly Filipino.”