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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32 thoughts on “Christmas Away From Home…”
I hope you get to spend Christmas with your family again soon!
That’s so kind of you, Jessica. I wish so too. 🙂
I hope you get to spend the holidays with your family soon. I love that Christmas music is played as early as September. That is my favorite part about the holidays! Well, one of. These are wonderful traditions! Do you play your own Christmas music at home to help you bring the traditions of home to where you live?
Thank you Christina, I really hope so too. You know what I haven’t! That’s really a good idea. Not only will it remind us of home but also it will jumpstart our own holiday family tradition. I can’t believe I haven’t thought of that! I’ll definitely be playing Christmas songs first thing in the morning tomorrow!
I can’t even imagine being away from home on Christmas. You are strong & brave. My fave holiday tradition is deff making Christmas cookies with my mom 🙂
Thank you Megan. That sounds like a fun holiday tradition you do with your mom. I hope you don’t mind if I copy it for me and my daughter! 🙂
I love Christmas for the songs, family get togethers, office and church functions just the joy of being with people you love and appreciate. Every culture has their customs and I understand how you can definitely miss family so many thousands of miles away from home. don’t think of what you are missing think of the memories you are creating for your children when you are doing your own celebrations in the US.
That’s a really good advice, Jiselle. I am now convinced that thinking about what I’m missing back home holds me back from creating our own family holiday traditions with my children. I have to move forward. Thank you. 🙂
One of my happiest memories growing up was decorating our Christmas tree together and everyone in the family eagerly helped. I remember how excited we would all be after papa or mama makes the announcement. I vow to keep the tradition and excitement alive with Hubby and kids =)
I always look forward to that too! It was so different back then when we were children. Now we are actually the ones creating these family traditions for our own kids. How cool is that? 🙂
The way you share your story made me feel warm and fuzzy. These are some really nice memories form the childhood. It’s great, though, that you see each experience as unique.
It’s always hard spending the holidays without family. I know because I have done it for 16 years. Hope you get to spend the holidays this year with them
Wishing that this year finds you at home, I have also not spent time back home with my parents for a while but I hope to visit them soon.
These sound like such special memories! I wish I could’ve seen you all caroling! And wow, you guys ate a whole pig! That sounds like the ultimate Xmas party!
I thanks giving as a tradition. Come in together to celebrate gratitude is so rewarding
I used to spend Christmas away from home a lot too. Although it was different in that it was my house. I hope you get to spend it with your family soon!
I wish the Christmas season was as long in the U.S. as it is in the Philippines! It sounds amazing! Christmas is my favorite time of the year and I love everything about it.
You Filipino traditions sounds wonderful! It’s a beautiful
holiday and I wish it would begin celebration earlier in the year, although september might be a bit much, haha!
This past year was my first Christmas away from home since I was living abroad in Belgium. I had a wonderful time with boyfriend’s family but I still missed caroling and putting decorations up outside!
I love Christmas all year long and have been to places just to look at their Christmas items.
I actually never spend Christmas at home, I always fly away to a warm destination. I am not tied up so I prefer just to enjoy Christmas somewhere in South America, on a beach. It’s such a different way of celebrating, I don’t know if I could go back to the snowy traditional one.
It sounds like Christmas in the Phillipines was magical. I can’t imagine having having people in the neighborhood going around caroling. I would have thought that was so fun as a child.
I have spent two Christmases away from my family so I can understand. I hope you get to spend christmas with them soon
My cousins in California celebrates Christmas with the Filipino community, so they say it feels like home also. But I agree, Christmas here in the Philippines is more magical. We start on September until December + we also celebrate Chinese New Year so that is until February 😀
I haven’t had Christmas at my home with my mother is a very long time. It’s usually spent at my home with my kids and she comes to me sometimes. I miss those days but living away from home and makin the choice to travel over a holiday are hard sometimes. I couldn’t imagine such a culture change as to not even have the holiday celebrated at all outside my home. That’s definitely a culture shock and would make it harder.
You just made me wish Christmas was here again. It’s the one time of the year when we all reunite with our family and friends for some good ole laughs.
Interesting story!! I don’t know a person who loves Christmas. It’s just a season for our loved ones and celebrate life that we have
I can say I know the feeling. After I moved back to the US from the Philippines, I definitely started missing Christmas time away from my home there. I love Christmas time there – big family reunion on Christmas day and the Christmas spirit in the Philippines was just amazing.
Hoping you get to celebrate at home next year! I totally get the feeling too.
Oh I love this! I love hearing about other peoples Christmas’s, it makes me feel all warm and happy inside, Christmas is just lovely isn’t it? I love creating traditions for our family.
I hope you get to spend Christmas at home soon, it sounds really wonderful
I live overseas as well. I’m an American living in Spain. I’ve spent both Christmas holidays here as it was expensive to return and I wanted to travel. It definitely is hard and you miss home a lot.