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Reliving memories with ham

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It has been said that in the Philippine islands every day is a fiesta.

We, Filipinos, love to celebrate – any excuse to have a feast is embraced. It may be even safe to presume that never does a day pass when a community does not celebrate something in some faraway town. Aside from birthdays, almost each day is dedicated to a patron saint emphasizing the country as being one of the most festive in the world.

But one holiday stands out, and this is actually an understatement for one of the most important and joyous occasions of all – Christmas. After all, it’s the biggest birthday celebration in the world and everyone is invited.
No other country in the world celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ like in the Philippines. Carols start to be heard as early as September with “Christmas in Our Hearts” by the country’s premiere balladeer Jose Mari Chan as the unofficial “official” song.

Every year, Filipinos around the world mark the first of September as the start of the countdown to Christmas. This is one of the most important traditions that makes ours the world’s longest observance of the season.

The period covers the so-called ‘Ber’ months and ends on the first weekend of January during the Feast of the Three Kings.

However, the official observance by the Catholic Church in the Philippines is from the beginning of the simbang gabi on 16 December until the Feast of the Epiphany on the first Sunday of January.

Star of the holiday feast

Christmas comes with centuries-old traditions dating back to Spanish times, from dawn Masses, which start on 16 December, to the display of parol (lantern), which is made from a bamboo frame to represent the star that guided the magi to the newborn Christ.

One practice that lives on among Filipino families today is serving a whole leg of ham, more popularly known as the Christmas ham. The Ilustrados, the educated class during the Spanish era, used to enjoy the most succulent, choicest cuts of sweetened meat in celebration of the first meal on Christmas eve or noche buena.

In urban areas like Metro Manila, many offices organize parties which are usually held during the second week of December, or right before schools and universities go on holiday.
Common activities include theatrical performances and parlor games and raffles. Food is provided either through potluck or from a pool of contributions to buy a suitable feast.

Despite the lingering global financial crisis, there’s no stopping Christmas. Every year at around this time, whatever the economic climate, one product continues to sell briskly: ham.
For most families, the Christmas ham is considered a must on noche buena tables during celebrations with family, friends and neighbors.

No other brand is more closely identified with this Filipino tradition than Purefoods Fiesta Ham, first introduced in the 1980s. The brand sparked a new custom, urging people to call it the “star of the noche buena feast.” It is now a Christmas staple.

A Purefoods-Hormel Company — the joint venture between San Miguel Corp. (SMC) and Hormel Foods Corp. of the United States, which manufactures the delicacy — it places emphasis on quality, and this is seen in the fully-cooked, sugar-glazed Christmas ham that everyone loves.

Purefoods Fiesta Ham is made from premium pork shoulder or ham leg with just the right amount of fat to keep the meat juicy while ensuring that no extenders are used in processing.

Frozen at a temperature of 18 degrees Centigrade, it will keep for up to eight months, which is probably why it has also become a popular, value-for-money gift proposition.

Whatever the situation, whatever Filipinos face each year, Christmas brings everyone together. And that, for us, is the true joy of Christmas.

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