SELINSGROVE - When the Warner family moved to rural Central Pennsylvania in 1979, they missed their community of Filipino friends.
The Danville family began hosting picnics and parties as they met and befriended other area Filipino families.
Three to five families met together a couple times a year for food and fellowship. But as the years passed, the parties grew.
Sentinel photos by ZANE F. BILGER
Cora Dodd, of McClure, and Ida Warner, of Danville, talk together during a recent Filipino-American Christmas Party in Selinsgrove.
On Dec. 9, about 100 people attended the 18th annual Filipino-American Christmas Party in Selinsgrove, an event birthed by the Warners' gatherings.
"People kept inviting more people and inviting more people," Ida Warner said. "We're a social people."
Now more young people attend, and Warner said that is who these parties really are for - continuing the traditions.
Her son, Jim, now an adult, remembered the summer cookouts and Christmas parties as a child, when the families gathered at each others' houses.
"It was important for us to have those connections, to keep our background," Jim Warner said.
Cora Dodd, of McClure, and her husband, Mike, were in charge of organizing this year's party after Ida Warner decided to "retire" from the position.
Along with a meal, the Dodds hosted games for the children, decorated the hall and performed traditional Philippine and American Christmas songs.
The party began at 5 p.m., but families slowly trickled in until past 6 p.m., when the food was served.
Everyone brought a dish for the party's giant pot-luck dinner. The tables were laden with traditional Filipino Christmas food such as roasted pork, chicken, lumpia (small egg rolls), pancit (thin noodles with vegetables and meat) and purple rice cakes (soft, chewy sweets that taste a little bit like licorice).
Many of the dishes were the same as those typically served at the traditional large Christmas Eve dinner in the Philippines. The meal, or Noche Buena, begins after the midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country where Christmas celebrations begin with Masses on Dec. 16. These set of nine services begin at about 4 a.m. and are called the Simbang Gabi, or night of worship. One popular belief is that after attending all nine Masses, a special wish will be granted by God.
In the Philippines, Christmas officially ends on Epiphany, or the day when the three kings visited Jesus. Some say the country hosts the longest Christmas celebration in the world, with hints of the holiday popping up as early as September.