It just occurred to me that this year is the fourth Christmas that I’ll be spending away from home. Of course, the term “home” has relatively two meanings for me now. One is the home I’m building together with my husband and kids here and the other is the home I grew up in where I spent the best moments of my younger years.
Each family has its own holiday traditions. And one is definitely not better than the other. In fact, I genuinely believe that It is the experience that makes a difference. Having spent 3 Christmases here in the US so far, I can say that the experience is not the same. Besides being raised in a country that celebrates Christmas the longest in Asia, I was also part of a big, loud (noisy) , pork eating family. So imagine my shock when on my first Christmas here in 2013, I couldn’t find any Christmas decors in the streets in November. The Filipino in me was literally panicking in my head! Or that time when I found out that one small whole lechon (roasted pig) will cost you between $200-$300 (10,000 to 14,000) or even more!!!
During the holiday season, homesickness is definitely at its peak for immigrants like me and Filipinos who work overseas. In whatever part of the world we find ourselves in, these are some things that call us home and into the loving arms of our loved ones we left behind.
1. Children singing Christmas Carols in the neighborhood
I remember roaming around the streets in our neighborhood caroling with my siblings and friends at night . With our home made instruments, youthful, angelic voices and wild dance moves one cannot help but be mesmerized. We would strategically pick the nicer houses, hoping we would get a penny or 2 more. At the end of the night, we divide the earnings among ourselves and give the kid who sang the loudest extra.
2. Christmas songs playing everywhere.
As early as September, you will hear Christmas songs playing on the radio, in the malls and different establishments. This is because Filipinos consider months ending with the syllable “ber” to be Christmas months. Our household is no exception. Every morning beginning September 1, I wake up to Christmas songs while my Dad sips coffee and reads his morning newspaper.
3. Christmas reunions here and there
In most cases, it is only during holidays that relatives and friends see each other. This is also usually the time when family and friends abroad come home to spend Christmas with their loved ones. Thus, being a family oriented nation, Filipinos are fond of family reunions and get togethers.
4. Kris Kringle (Monita/ Manita)
This is the Pinoy version of Secret Santa in Western countries. A person picks out a name of someone to give a gift to without revealing the name until the Christmas party itself. At home, everyone is compelled to participate, household helpers, drivers and visiting relatives. Being a teacher and someone who loves drama, my Mom would force us to speak in front of everyone, describe our Monita/Monita until someone guesses who he is before giving our present. And that’s on top of singing “I love my Monita/Manita yes I do!, I love my Monita/Monita but I won’t tell you!” Talk about stress!
5. Simbang Gabi
Simbang gabi or Misa de Gallo is a series of novena masses nine days before Christmas. It is held at three or four o’clock in the morning, starting on December 16 and ends on December 24. It is a treasured Filipino religious tradition that shows heartfelt devotion to God the Father and increases the anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ. Many Filipinos make it a personal mission to complete all the nine-day dawn Masses as it is believed that one special wish will be granted by God. I’m not so sure if I’ve ever completed all nine days, but then I was usually sleeping in church, so I wouldn’t know.
To say I miss spending Christmas in the Philippines is an understatement. And if I was given a chance to spend Christmas again with my family there, I would fly in a heart beat. To tell you honestly, I’ve yet to create our own Christmas family traditions here in the US. For some reason, no matter how hard I try to make it fun and memorable for my kids, it feels like there’s something missing and it’s not the same. I think I need my Mom here for just one Christmas to jump start our family tradition for us. It sounds ridiculous but hey, it is what it is.
How about you? What is your favorite family holiday tradition?
KC & a truckload of hugs and kisses
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