Of all the holidays in a year, Christmas happens to be my favorite. I enjoy the gift shopping, gift wrapping and gift giving. I enjoy decorating our place. I even enjoy writing on Christmas cards and sending them out. Among other things that the holidays entail, of course. Now that we live in the US, there’s a part of me that wants to replicate the Christmas of my youth. But I know I can’t do that completely.
My mom had a belen (“a creche or tableau representing the Nativity scene” according to Wikipedia) that she inherited from her parents. She also had a big statue of the baby Jesus. Sometimes, we’d have the belen under the Christmas tree. Other times, the baby Jesus statue. Either way, I loved them both. As kids, we were not supposed to play with them, just look and admire. Thankfully, we didn’t play with them. Or at least I don’t think anyone dared to, not even me. It was beautiful. Sometimes, that’s enough to make one keep their distance. We also had a parol outside our house, so typically Filipino.
I remember my mom wouldn’t put gift tags on the gifts, just numbers so we wouldn’t guess who was getting what gift. It was an interesting idea. We weren’t brought up with the concept of Santa. I think they attempted to for a short time, but they didn’t go for it 100%. It didn’t last long.
Simbang Gabi was something I couldn’t really pull off in my youth. I love to sleep and I couldn’t really wake up that early. There were years when I tried to attend, but ended up falling asleep. Perhaps now that I’m older, maybe I can do it. Who knows?
On Christmas eve, we’d attend midnight Mass. I loved the midnight Mass. Temperature was cooler at that time. The church was overflowing with people. There were vendors that sold native delicacies like bibingka and puto bumbong. I confess, I didn’t like those then (back in the days, I only liked so few native delicacies). But mostly I loved listening to Christmas carols and singing along with the choir.
There are still other memories of Christmases past that I haven’t written about. Maybe some other time. This Christmas, we went as far as having jamon and gouda (part of the antipasto platter) after Midnight Mass. Gouda’s not really queso de bola (edam), but we made do. That’s just the life of the migrant.