Thursday, December 10, 2009

Memoirs of the Christmases I Cherish and Miss Today

All my life, I never missed a single Christmas celebration, not since I was of age to know about Santa Claus and lanterns, Mama Mary, Papa Joseph, and Baby Jesus. I was never sick nor was I away from home at Christmas time. I almost missed one, when my youngest daughter, Kit, was two months old. On the eve of her baptism, a lingering pain in my tummy that I felt after normal delivery, worsened. The following day, at the height of the baptismal party at home, my husband rushed me to a hospital. Back home, nobody knew I was operated on before midnight. Blackened blood clots were found to have caused the pain in my appendix. The slow decay was spitting out poison into my bloodstream.

That was December 26, one day after Christmas. So you see? I never really missed that Christmas, I just missed the fun of my baby's baptism. I have always cherished my past Christmases with my loved ones. This time of the year, I would sit back and relax, lost in the happy recall of those days of fun, of family togetherness, of my humble beginnings.

My Christmases with Tatay (Father)

Tatay to me used to be the all-knowing, invincible man, with a disposition an inquisitive child like me, could lovingly admire and whose many surprises I enjoyed to the fullest. He was my Nanay's (Mother) joy when in times of peace, he was her friend-no-more when he pissed her with his playful antiques. I just wondered why Nanay would react the way she did at Tatay's playful jokes. I enjoyed those times tremendously, anyway.

I grew up in an environment where most of the neighborhood children seldom went to school. But my parents saw to it that all 9 of us, their children, went to school and received good
education. Their efforts paid off. My other siblings graduated valedictorians, salutatorians, with honors, where I had none. Well, I was not the dumb one, I might not have been as lucky as they were. But I used to be a teacher's pet, too. Well, I finally received one- in my post graduate studies. I graduated with academic excellence!

So, it was in school where I learned about the Santa Claus Tatay introduced to us-when I was not yet in school. Santa Claus, the white-bearded, pot-bellied, sleigh-riding old man from faraway land who gave us our Christmas gifts on Christmas eve, if we were good. So I used to try to be very good, at least for Santa to know. I learned about the story of the first Christmas in school, that Tatay was always ready to confirm and many stories about baby Jesus and His family and many things my peers didn't know about.

Perhaps, it was only in our house where a decent-looking Christmas tree stood quiet and stately even if its decors were made of cheap stuffs. The tree used to be a pine tree cuttings Tatay would bring home on his sturdy shoulders, courtesy of his janitor friends at his workplace in the Capitol building. As soon as he had it placed on a strong base, say an empty petroleum can, he would fish out from his pockets some colorful balloons. How we siblings enjoyed blowing the balloons to hang. We would decorate our treasured tree very artistically. I couldn't keep back smiling today over those balloons, because every time the wind blew, out puffed the balloons, to our dismay. Tatay, would buy the next day again.

I would save a few coins to buy Christmas balls , candies I hanged, which I would count from time to time, lest a naughty sibling might pick to eat. I bought some beautiful old Christmas cards in a Catholic school that sold such item to us children. My 1 peso would yield a big bunch of say, 20 pieces of cards, which I tied with thread and likewise hanged. When the wind blew, I would clap in gleeful wonder over the cards turning around and around. Imagine that? In the eyes of a child it was a perfect Christmas tree, and that which I believed would make dear old Santa stop to look for the socks I hanged.

We never bought any of those commercial lanterns. My Tatay and our elder brothers made home-made parols (Christmas lanterns) or lanterns from strips of bamboo, then covered with white or red or yellow Japanese paper. Inside each parol was a candle holder, to be lighted when night came. Oh so beautiful lanterns, in front of our windows. They were everybody's envy. The neighbors would come over just to watch the twinkling parols like stars in the night. Did anybody fear for possible risk of fire? Nobody did! Because Tatay and Nanay kept watch until it was time to sleep.

On Christmas eve, I used to tell myself not to sleep, in case Santa arrived, so I would be on a night watch to see him put the gifts in my socks. I really wanted him to put at least the things I wrote in my letter to him. Santa never seemed to know. But Tatay would say he was too busy to even look. Many children all over the world were also waiting for his coming. But I thanked him, for the candies, anyway.

We would be awakened from deep sleep by our parents to dine together at midnight over hot pancit with puto or sandwich with margarine and hot chocolate. What irked me though was Tatay's habit of making us wait until he was able to distribute a plateful of pancit-puto-sandwich to each of our neighbors. Rain or strong cold wind, didn't deter Tatay from giving out food. I never went out with him, as I was afraid of the dark.

The next day, December 25, we would have a festive meal of meat for lunch, steaming beef or pork stew, or sort of heavy dish complete with dessert, which we enjoyed with unexpected visitors, too. Tatay never seemed to have ran out of people to feed at Christmas time. I grew up into adulthood accepting that our house was a big mess hall for our neighbors, relatives or not. During special celebrations or even not so special ones, that called for preparing of food, Tatay saw to it that we, his children, would be giving food to the houses in the compound.

Christmases with Dad (My Husband)

When I got married, our paternal tradition during Christmases, was somehow internalized in me that I saw no great effort on my new family to follow the same. Like our dear Tatay, Dad, enjoyed the very same things we did. We introduced to my 2 daughters early in their lives about Santa and all that stuff. However, they were very clever, than I was, because they discovered early also that Santa was a hoax, and that Santa was actually Daddy, sneaking out when they fell asleep waiting for the "Ho ho ho ho ho!" and the clatter of reindeers' feet on our rooftop. Santa they said, wouldn't be bringing them candies they could very well buy in the old sari-sari stores nearby, they could have been strange candies, chocolates, and goodies they only saw in foreign magazines as Santa was a foreigner.

Since it was only Tatay and Nanay left alone in their house, (adjacent to ours), we would move in their house for the Christmas "noche buena". Food was much more aplenty then, than when I was young. Dad would teach the 2 girls how to bake cakes and would dress them up with florets, and icing, too. No one but Dad and I would go around to give food to our neighbors. I couldn't say "no". Just like me when I was young, my 2 daughters would reason out that they were afraid of the dark.

We didn't bother Tatay and Nanay to buy special gifts for each one of us during Christmas when we were young. To us, exchange gifts were better enjoyed in school. After all, they would buy us the gifts we exchanged in school anyway. We would keep away our received gifts to open on Christmas day. Not before, or else the magic would have weakened its effect on us, receivers, or so we thought.

But to my 2 daughters, gift-giving was a must. We would go to the big City (Manila) for the shopping. When they were young, we bought their necessities in school anyway, like a new pair of shoes, new school bag, and their favorite- which they would insist to buy themselves, were pocket books like the Nancy Drew Adventures type, What Are Friends For? etc. As they grew older, they didn't want their Dad and I to shop for them. This idea was introduced by their Auntie Nela, Auntie Lina, and Auntie Edna who gifted them, with gift cheques. As they went around the malls for their loot, Dad and I would just sit and wait until they were done. We would then evaluate their items which often were trinkets, a growing up wanted to have. And so, poor Dad would still chip in for new shoes, bags, dresses, they wanted after all.

Once in a while, Dad and I would force the girls to come along with us for the Rotary and Innerwheel Club Christmas Parties to which we were active members. Or to other clubs' Christmas Parties, we used to attend as active members before or just after December 24. I still remember today the last Christmas party we attended, in December 28, 1999. He was very happy even if he was already feeling a sort of malaise in his right side by the hips. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer, January 2.

Christmas was never meant to be sad for us. We would go around the big city, in a caravan with my other siblings and their children, to take a good view of the Christmas lights and lanterns that adorned Makati. We could stay for almost the whole night just watching the live Belen (Christmas manger depiction) in Greenhills and wherever we learned of good treats for children. We would go around sore in the throats with our "ohhhs" and "ahhhs" as we appreciated what we saw along the way. I really missed those happy days with Dad.

Today, I would bring myself first to great effort, before I could put up my own Christmas tree or decor at home. Not that I don't want to celebrate this special occasion, but I seem to have lost my festive mood as the season approaches. I often live alone at home, that perhaps, is the reason. I cherish these fond memories of my past Christmases and I really miss a single bit of the experience we had- until this day.

I just can't wean myself entirely from those memories, but my recent Christmases with my 2 daughters are more than enough to make me smile again. They are always looking for ways to make me enjoy not only the season but my life as a whole. We have each other to relive the moments. I have 2 wonderful daughters to share my thoughts with. This alone, makes life enjoyable and pleasant.


  1. Hey, wishing you and your family members a merry christmas and a wonderful prosperous New year in advance with all fun and comforts of life. Your blog post is really touching the heart. All the best and God bless all.

  2. pdkamath, sir, Thank you for the comment. It really warms my heart. May the Yuletide Season and the new year find you Merry and Prosperous, too, with family and friends, all the year through. God bless you all!

  3. Very sorry to hear about your dad.

    Wishing you & your family a very warm & merry X'mas.

  4. Mystic Earth, appreciated your concern. Wishing you back and with your family, a Joyous Christmas and Prosperous New Year. Thank you.

  5. Christmas days are already over, but I wish you all the best for this new year. May 2010 bring you happiness, joy and good health. Take care!


  6. Ellen, your blog comment is very much appreciated. I can't wait to see what BC 2010 brings us both. Wishing you, too- good health, happy BC days and lasting online friendship.

  7. You have a nice blog here, lots of interesting and diversified content.

  8. Ove Jansson,

    My pleasure, Sir. Thanks for the comment.



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