By Becky Pagsibingan
Christmas is just around the corner. This season is the time when it gives me much pleasure to take a pause from the hustle bustle of the daily grind and take some time to reflect. This musing gives me sometime to talk to myself with many things coming out from my own thoughts and feelings. Poignant memories of the past come to my mind as I look back.
What was then? How far back was then? My distant memories will just take me back to when my children were little. It will be too far back if I muse on my own childhood memories on Christmas. But, on the second thought, my reflections on Christmas with my own family will also have a reflection on my own childhood experiences because I passed them on to my children – from my mother to my children.
Thinking about the then and now on Christmas family tradition. Back in the Philippines when my children were little, I could see the innocent twinkle in their eyes in anticipation of the coming of Christmas. The trimming of the Chistmas tree was an exciting experience for them because it was associated with gifts under the tree from Santa Klaus.
They were happy with their Christmas clothes which were custom made for them (many of you will remember, it was easy to have a personal “mananahi” or “costurera” then) and with their new pairs of shoes and accessories. On Christmas Eve, we had “Media Noche” (midnight dinner) with Filipino ham, sopas (home made chicken noodle soup), queso de bola, macaroni salad, Morcon, Leche Flan and fruit salad. We ate very light meal on early dinner to have room for the midnight feast. On Christmas morning they woke up to find their gifts under the Christmas tree. I knew that they could not sleep the night before as they kept on peeping every now and then to see if the gifts were already delivered by Santa. My son suspected that the gifts came from us when he saw the same gift wrapping paper which was not well hidden under our bed in our bedroom. Nosey boy! The subdivision where we lived did not have much Christmas carolers that went around the houses. My children would have enjoyed them. But they also enjoyed looking at the huge “Parol” or Christmas lanterns that were hung and had almost covered the windows of many houses. I also adorned our house with an all white “parol” with fluffy “palawit.” All “parols” shone brightly with lights inside.
Then we dressed them up to hear Mass in the morning. My husband and I made sure that they were quietly listening to and watching the priest. They were attentive to the choir singing Christmas Carols and were appreciative of the church decorations. We made it sure that they understood that Christmas was about the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Then came the gift giving from their “ninangs” and “ninongs” after the “Mano Po.” They also observed gift giving to the poor when my brother-in-law and my husband gave money to the street children in Pandacan, Manila. Christmas lunch was at my parents’ home and Christmas dinner was at my mother-in-law’s home. I treasured this tradition very much as this was the link between the three generations.
We gave money gifts to the “Lolos” and “Lolas” as it was the most practical gifts we could think of. The next day, ‘wala pang pasok sa escuela”, we would take our children to the mall to see a children’s movie. Before they return back to school after the holidays, they already knew how much gift money they received for Christmas’.
They “intrega” their money to mommy for safekeeping. I was their bank and they trusted me. Little as they were, they knew how to show their love to us. In the evening, after school, they were secretly making Christmas cards for mommy and daddy. I saw bits and pieces of green and red colored paper and scissors to cut them in their bedroom. They wrote messages complete with erroneous spellings, but with loving words like one of them wrote: “Dear mommy & daddy, I don’t have moni to by you gifs but I LOVE you !!! Merri Chrismas! I suspected that one of our “kasama sa bahay” helped them with the spelling of some words. Bless them for helping our children spell the words for them. For a three year old child who just knew what message to convey and knew how to write the alphabets, but did not know how to spell the words, perfect na! The message was clear to us! And in the evenings, they let us cuddle them on our bed until they fell asleep. By then, my husband would carry them one by one to their beds.
My four children are now adults and they lead their own lives. I don’t dress them up anymore for Christmas nor take them to see children’s movie and keep their Christmas money gifts. But, I know that they kept these memories in their hearts and the bonding we’ve had. We live in a different land and culture now, but we are still able to keep our family tradition of togetherness at Christmas time. The spirit is well and alive. The wonders of Christmas are still with us. They do not live in our home anymore as they have their own already, but they take their time off to be home for Christmas to be with us and feel the warmth of family closeness. They don’t make homemade Christmas cards anymore, but they wrote their own loving messages to us that warmed our hearts. They make sure that we have our supplies of vitamin C, calcium and gloucosamine tablets. They also buy us outfits for Christmas and pamper us with gifts, even kitchen appliances and TV. Funny, but we did not spoil them when they were little, but now they were spoiling us.
I watched when the four of them were together. They were like children again, cajoling and huddled together on one bed as they watched DVD movies. It is priceless. These are the worthwhile things about Christmas that will never die. Love is there. I am sure that you have your own reflections on Christmas be it melancholic, nostalgic or happy and amusing memories. It is worth recounting those memories. You have your own stories to tell.
In retrospect, I just hope that there’ll be many more Christmas celebrations in store for my family. I am thinking of the family of my sister in Canada. I don’t think it will be the same for her husband and son this Christmas. She passed away a few weeks ago. It is very fresh and they are still coping and I am also still feeling the pain. I am also remembering my sister in the Philippines and another sister in California whose husbands passed away a few years back. The most poignant and nostalgic aspect of Christmas for them is spending it without their loved ones.
There’s so much to thank for this Christmas for my own family – all the blessings that we received in the past, good health, safe living, peace and quiet, and the resources for living. We are thankful that though our children are already on their own, we are still intact as a family and we are able to keep the spirit of Christmas alive within us. We take a pause to pray for our relatives, friends and the less fortunate people who were affected by the recent typhoons and calamities in the Philippines. We are also thankful that most of us here have pulled our resources together to extend help to them. We are also blessed to have good friends who are there through thick and thin, who understand our misgivings. Christmas time is also a good time to reflect on how we associate with other people – for us to be less critical of others and have more forgiving demeanor towards them as we realize that we are not perfect. We are blessed with this realization.
MALIGAYA AT MAPAYAPANG PASKO SA LAHAT