Like opening presents, celebrating Noche Buena is one of the most anticipated events of Christmas. Imagine coming home after Midnight Mass to feast with family and friends over a table absolutely groaning with goodies like lechon, Christmas ham, pancit or spaghetti, queso de bola, bibingka, fruit salad, and other yummy dishes.
But what else do we know about this special occasion other than the fact that it happens on December 24?
Here are four things to know:
It’s an influence of Spain.
Though it literally means “good night” in English, Noche Buena is also the Spanish term for Christmas Eve. (Bonus: Media Noche, “midnight” in Spanish, is the feast that happens to welcome the New Year.)
Need any more proof that Noche Buena came from Spain? Check out the staple dishes of this annual gathering: Besides the aforementioned lechon, jamonado, and queso de bola, there’s embotido, relleno, morcon, and tablea, among others!
It originally came after fasting.
Back in the day, according to pepper.ph, Spanish friars required the faithful to fast before Christmas Day. This made people really hungry, that by the time they finished attending Mass on Christmas Eve, they were ready to feast on a spread of delectable dishes.
Other countries celebrate Noche Buena, too.
Spain’s typical noche buena menu consists of a fish dish, soup, and roast pork or lamb. Turron (the nougat and honey treat, not to be mistaken for the Philippines’ Pambasang Merienda [national snack], the deep-fried banana and langka spring roll, turon) provides a sweet ending.
Caja china (a whole pig roasted in a box over hot coals) is the star of the noche buena of Cubans. For Peruvians, it’s a turkey, and for Venezuelans, its hallacas, pernil (pork leg), panettone (sweet loaf), and Ponche Crema (their version of eggnog with rum).
We have a love-hate relationship with fruitcake.
Supposedly introduced to Filipinos by the Americans (who, in turn, picked it up from the British), the fruitcake—that compact, dark loaf of a dessert with hardened, sweetened chunks of fruit gifted and served every Christmas—is, according to Huffington Post, “easily the most hated cake in the existence of baking.”
But it doesn’t have to be, as this list of the best fruitcakes in the metro shows! You can also try an alternative to this traditional Christmas cake: crème de fruta is the Pinoys’ version of fruitcake.