We’ll be home for Christmas. Well, I’ll be home with my niece, just the two of us, without our usual big family gathering because of the pandemic.
Ever since I was a kid, our family always gathered for Christmas. I was born in a small, quaint town in Quezon and our Christmases were always celebrated with the family.
When my older siblings started college in Manila, we younger siblings always waited for their Christmas vacation. Their coming home always signaled that Christmas day was near. They would bring our new shoes and dresses/outfits bought from the big city. They would also bring Christmas fruits like apples and grapes . These fruits were imported and were rare at that time and their smell , specially the smell of apples, evoked the feeling of Christmas in me. These were essential fruits in our Noche Buena shared with the immediate family. The favorite dish was the fried chicken cooked in her own recipe by my mother.
Christmas Day is the time when our cousins come to visit our Lola in our ancestral home where we lived. There was no obligatory gift giving in our family then. We kids just hang socks on the Christmas tree and eagerly looked for small gifts in the socks as soon as we woke up on Christmas morning.
We wore our new outfits in going to church for the mass on Christmas day. We met almost everyone in church and we knew almost everyone in our town so after mass, we kept beaming and smiling because we saw and greeted familiar people. As we walked home , we were greeted and greeted back in turn by people we met on the streets. Then we kids would go to our relatives and godparents to visit them, in Tagalog “namamasko”. It was heartwarming seeing many walking on the streets for their “pamamasko”. Some of us felt the strain on our feet due to new shoes but we kept on our “pamamasko”. In the afternoon, it was customary for the teenagers and other adults to have their turn in visiting friends and relatives. That was pure familial and community bonding even if for us kids, our motivation was not only familial love but also our aspiration for Christmas gifts, usually money so kids could carry the gifts in visiting godparents and relatives from house to house.
As each one of us siblings reached college levels , we moved to Manila one by one. But Christmas was still a homecoming. For us younger siblings, it was our turn to look forward to coming home and see our parents , relatives and old friends from grade school and high school.
As most of us graduated and pursued our careers and dreams in Metro Manila or for some of us, in other countries, we started to have our Christmas reunions in the city. We looked forward to our coming together , some of us would come from our hometown, some from other parts of Metro Manila and some from other countries.
This year will be different because of the pandemic. But family bonding lives on as we share the joy and hopes of Christmas through new ways in the so-called new normal and we celebrate together in spirit even if physically we’re far apart.