The longest Christmas season in the world can be found nowhere other than our very own, The Philippines. Yes, ang Pilipinas ang may pinakamahabang pagdiriwang ng pasko sa buong mundo. I should know. The fondest memories I have of the Philippines always included the Christmas season.
I grew up in a middle-class (nung may middle-class pa) family in Manila. My dad was an employee at a Customs Forwarding Company and my mom was a homemaker. Even though we didn’t have much, we had enough. A large family of 10 children plus a few adopted ones, made up our family. We only had one household help at a time except for the laundry woman who comes in weekly to wash our clothes. We did have a washing machine at one point but growing up, I remember the washing machine to have been used only to store water for laundry since water was rationed during summer months from what I recall.
When I was growing up, my favorite season was Christmas. I loved it more for the traditional things that our family did more than the commercial and material aspects of it. As you all know, as soon as the “ber” months arrive, we can start hearing Christmas carols over the radio. The weather hasn’t even cooled down yet but memories of children making their own makeshift musical instruments (drums and tambourine) made out of empty milk cans, plastic and rubber bands for the drums and coat hanger wire and flattened bottle caps or “tanzans” for the tambourine. I made my own a well. It was part of growing up. You gathered empty bottle caps with your friends and you all joined together, hammering the caps to flatten them and then punching a hole in the middle and pulling the coat hanger wire through the punched hole to make the tambourine.
Being the youngest in the family, I went through the tasks that all my siblings went through to fully experience the family traditions. There was someone tasked to take the Christmas Tree (plastic) from storage or “bodega” and the decorations and Christmas lights that went with it. Someone was in charge of putting the tree together, the whole family was in charge of decorating the tree with Christmas ornaments and sash. And then, someone was in charge of taking the Christmas lights to the hardware store and have each and every light tested to make sure that it is working. At the end of it all, I will be given styrofoam so that I could scratch and crumble it atop the Christmas tree to make it look like snowflakes.
Every year, I looked forward to this family tradition. It was almost a part of my childhood and my childhood would not have been a great one without it. Today, my siblings have their own families and I always implore them to make their own family traditions. I wanted my nephews and nieces to have the same kind of memory of the Christmas holidays as I did. Even the traditional “noche buena” gives me fond memories of our family around the dinner table after midnight mass, getting ready to partake of a Filipino feast consisted of grilled hotdogs on a stick, Filipino spaghetti, hot “tablea” chocolate drink, “bibingka” and “puto bumbong”. Sometimes we have the occasional suman with malagkit.
Nowadays, times are different. Since I am single and live alone, I have to put up my own Christmas tree, and decorate the house with lights. It is not the same as it was when I was growing up. I am grateful to my parents who, in part, instilled these holiday traditions in us. I will forever cherish the memories of it and I hope that my siblings can pass these traditions on to their children too.
We only have a couple more weeks before Christmas and I am wishing all of you a wonderful and festive holiday!
I wll be busy spending the holidays with friends and I may also go to visit family over the New Year.
Until then, please keep well and always keep me in your prayers.
Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon!