Looking Back to Beautiful Memories of Christmas

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

I have been so blessed to have the happiest memories of Christmases in my life. For as long as I can remember, my childhood Christmases have been magical. Even though I spent my childhood in the Philippines, our celebrations are no different from how it is celebrated in the US. Aside from the food where the entire holiday season from Christmas Eve to New Year is a non-stop feast of Filipino, American and Spanish food, everything else seems to be no different from our celebrations in California. 

We have the tree (now it is a fresh tree instead of the plastic tree that my mom puts up every 16th of December) and we hung stockings (our favorite socks when I was a kid in Manila. Ha! Ha!). "Santa" always put our presents inside the socks and underneath the tree with a lecture. The one that I remember was  "Study hard  or next year I am going to put a pumpkin in your sock instead." And in my dad's handwriting. 

There was Christmas play at the church on Christmas Eve and carolers who visited our home on many nights in December. Often times, I joined them so I could be with my best friend and this boy whom I had the biggest crush on.  In the late morning on Christmas Eve, my dad would take me and my siblings to go food shopping for Hersheys and American chocolates, queso de bola, ham, chestnuts, apples, grapes and oranges. Christmas morning was running to the tree to see what Santa left for us then  visiting  my grandparents in our newest outfit. The whole house then gets packed the entire day with relatives, cousins, friends, etc. 

Noche Buena follows after coming from church on Christmas Eve. We eat dinner at midnight after praying together as a family, and thanking God for the blessings of abundance and togetherness.  The table is groaning with morcon, embutido, arroz valenciana, pancit, crispy pata,  lechon, kare-kare, kaldereta, ham, roasted stuffed chicken, steamed lapu-lapu, chicken arroz caldo and tokwa't baboy, etc. There were desserts of every kind -- sweet sticky rice, sweetened garbanzo beans, ube, macapuno, fruit salad, leche flan (of course)! Breakfast for Christmas morning is pineapple ham in pandesal and thick hot Spanish chocolate.

All along Filipino Christmas carols are blaring and competing with the sounds of laughters and conversations on Christmas Day. 

Fast forward to December 24th, 2017. I am no longer a child in Manila. I am now a grown woman in California with my siblings who have a family of their own. And I am celebrating Christmas Eve with my entire family at my brother's house in San Jose. Everyone was there except Mr Sweetie because he wanted he celebrate it with his family which I can totally understand. Now my siblings and I are no longer the kids who were anticipating Christmas. I see my brother and sister and myself in my nephews and niece. Just like how our parents wanted to give us the best to make us the happiest on Christmas morning, my siblings and I try to outdo each other in making our parents very happy and proud by showering them with presents.

The house is a lot more quiet than how it was in Manila.  There are no extended family but just us. The table is still as blessed with so much food. My mom and sister-in-law are cooking in the kitchen. Even my 14 year old nephew,, Matthew,  wanted to help out. Then the two boys, Matthew and Gabriel, help me bake croissants. My brother cooks the New York steaks that I brought to show off "this is how you make the perfect steaks." Everything turns out delicious. We had so much fun and were beyond stuffed.

My dad is sitting down on the couch. My dad is turning 83 on the day after Christmas. He looks like  a happy and content man. He did good. My mom and dad put us through school and sacrificed so much for us. Things that I never appreciated until I got older. Because of them, my siblings and I are well-educated and financially established. My parents also instilled a strong sense of family within us, and we are hoping that we are passing these values  on to the children.  

And I am happy. This is the Christmas of my dreams -- to celebrate this holiday again with my mom and dad. After years of growing up in the US, going to school, establishing our careers and finding ourselves, Christmas as an entire family was rare. We went back as young adults to Manila one December, then either I went back or my siblings, or my parents were visiting but not during the holiday season. Last December 2014 was the last one before this year where the entire family was together on Christmas Day(including Mr Sweetie). My parents said this year that they will start coming back every December to be with us. 

In the background, Filipino Christmas songs played. I just sat down on the couch and listened. I have not heard these songs since I was a kid. I started to have crushes by then. I remember how I thought I was so "in love" with this one boy. I used to listen to these same songs just day dreaming about him. Everything was so serious. Life was so serious. It felt that I would die if I did not marry this boy. I was -- I don't know, 13? Ha! Ha! Fast forward to the future, what seemed to be what meant so much to me at that time is nothing now. In fact, I would not have given this man a second glance. I am now with a wonderful man -- the present that I want every single Christmas. 

Life is so full of blessings. It is beautiful, complicated and bittersweet. Life is unpredictable and full of surprises which makes it what is it-- life. A simple and beautiful life. I am now realizing how blessed I am and we are as a family. It is not a perfect life and never will be. I have been given and continue to enjoy the blessings of my parents in their old age. We are always blessed financially. Our lives are full of comfort and we never experience wanting for anything whether it be material things or love.  Our parents taught us to appreciate beautiful things but never get stuck on luxuries. They gave us faith which we held on when things get tough. And with all these blessings, they taught us to share, give generously and extend the blessings to others who need them. 

I can only hope that there will be more happy Christmases with my mom and dad and family. These are really the only presents that I want, and nothing else.

As I get older, the holiday presents that I want cannot be bought.

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