Filipinos hold numerous festivals, holidays and fiestas that mark religious and historical events or traditional rituals based on nature. Often these themes are blended together. Some events are celebrated nationally; others are regional, and some are village celebrations honouring a patron saint.

National celebrations include Christmas, New Year's and Holy Week, as well as Labour Day. People celebrate Independence Day in June with parades, concerts, fireworks and political speeches. Holy Week (the week before Easter) involves processions and street theatre. On All Saints' Day (November 1), people visit cemeteries, where they set up family tents, picnic, play cards and commemorate their deceased relatives.

The nine days preceding Christmas are a time for prayers and preparations for festivities. Dawn masses and plays re-enacting Joseph and Mary's search for a shelter are held almost every day. On Christmas Eve, midnight mass is followed by the Noche Buena, when family members and friends get together to exchange gifts and good wishes, feast and share prayers.

The carabao festival in May honours the country's national animal, a type of water buffalo with curved horns that is considered the peasants' best friend for its usefulness in agriculture. At the carabao festival the animals are washed and decorated with ribbons and flowers. After the carabao race, the animals are paraded in front of the local church, where they are made to kneel down to be blessed.

On the island of Marinduque, people end the Christmas season by celebrating the Feast of the Three Kings on the first Sunday in January. Parades feature men dressed as the kings enacting the Biblical journey of the Magi. In Manila, the Feast of the Black Nazerene occurs on January 9th. A colourful procession features the Black Nazerene statue: a black, life-size image of Jesus bearing his cross.

The most important Muslim festival is hari raya, which marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting from dawn to sunset. The day is marked by religious processions, exchanges of gifts and cards, sports events and feasting.

January 1 New Year's Day
March/April Easter
April 9 National Heroes Day
May 1 Labour Day
June 12 Independence Day
November 1 All Saint's Day
December 25 Christmas Day
December 30 José Rizal Day

  Did you know?
Former president Marcos changed the Philippine Independence Day celebration from July 4, the day of independence from the United States, to June 12, the day of freedom from Spanish rule.

  Did you know?
Although Filipinos have adopted Western dress, they still wear their national costumes on special occasions. Women wear a terno a long dress with a flared skirt and butterfly sleeves. Men wear slacks and the barong tagalog, a fine shirt made out of pineapple pulp with either long or short sleeves.