Philippine parols light up New Westminister City Hall

New Westminster, BC

Traditional Pinoy lanterns are included in this year’s Shine Bright event

By Charmaine Y. Rodriguez

The City of New Westminster’s popular annual Christmas event called Shine Bright is including a Parol Christmas Star Lantern Display in its City Hall foyer.

Presented by the Filipino-Canadian Society for International Arts and Events and the New Westminster Philippine Festival Society, the display features various parols – lanterns that are a Filipino holiday tradition whose history dates back to the Spanish colonial era.

“With a mix of beloved traditions and new experiences, there are over 40 opportunities taking place all over the community,” said Lisa Kemp, the city’s acting recreation supervisor, in a report by “There is something for everyone.”

“Shine Bright New West is made possible thanks to the support of 12 community partners,” Kemp added. “We were so pleased that longtime partners were eager to partner again this year. We have also focused on building relationships with other community organizations that have joined in on the campaign.”

Shine Bright New West features yearly creative activities, cultural experiences and illuminated outdoor spaces. It runs from Dec. 1 to 31 in neighbourhoods across the city.

“The parol, a beloved symbol of Filipino holiday tradition has a rich history dating back to the Spanish colonial era when lanterns called “farol” were introduced,” the event’s promo in the city’s website also reads.

These lanterns, initially used for illumination and artistic expression were transformed into the uniquely Filipino parol. During times of scarce electricity, Filipinos repurposed these lanterns to guide their way to the traditional Simbang Gabi Mass, crafting a symbol of hope and faith. It has become a powerful emblem of Filipino Christmas spirit and unity, continuing to shine brightly in homes and at festivities, reminding everyone of the enduring power of tradition and the beauty of celebrating Christmas together, it added.

“The City of New Westminster is committed to fostering a community where everyone feels a sense of belonging,” said Mayor Patrick Johnstone. “Shine Bright is a welcoming and inclusive event that brings people together to celebrate the season and experience our natural spaces in a new light.”

Organizers said it was an honour for the Philippines to have its very own parols featured in the city’s Christmas celebration this year.

Now in its fourth year, Shine Bright New West has a number of awards: a Creative Cities of Canada Cultural Events Award in October 2022 and the British Columbia Parks and Recreation Association – Festivals and Events Excellence Award in May 2022. The Downtown BIA received the Special Events Programming Excellence from BIABC (Business Improvement Areas of BC) in May 2021.

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