There are Christmases I remember made vivid and nostalgic by the people and things I associated with them . Some of these people and things have changed, some have gone and some remained. But the heartwarming memories remain.
Christmases are for children as they say and I’ll always remember Christmases when I was a child. There was the pop-up paper Belen that we had.
We also had a Christmas tree , made of a cut tree, usually a bakawan (mangrove) which was plentiful in our place being a seaside town. (There’s much focus on the mangrove now with environmental consciousness. The mangrove area was reclaimed so the bakawans were probably not preserved because they would really be cut for the reclamation) . The branches were wrapped in cotton. Other friends’ Christmas trees were painted white. I realize now that we were imitating the snow-covered trees of temperate countries (which the Philippines didn’t and doesn’t have. I don’t see Christmas trees like that anymore). Had I known then, I would have told my playmates that cotton resembled snow more.
We were not big on Santa Claus decor, but we did hang socks in our Christmas tree for Santa’s gifts. These gifts were almost always the Serg’s chocolate and some crispy, new peso bills. (Yes, young folks, we did receive money in those denominations shown in the pictures) We liked to smell the new money. (The Central Bank of the Philippines still issues new money at this time of year) .
Serg’s chocolates are no longer in the market or the company stopped producing for a long while ( they have a Facebook page which I reached when I searched for Serg’s chocolate image).
I remember Nanay’s (mother) special fried chicken and bistik during Noche Buena. There were apples and grapes brought home by my siblings studying in Manila. Apples and grapes were imported and rare in those times and the mere smell of apples evoked the Christmas feeling in me. We also had the Tagalog tikoy. We ate the tikoy as is from the wrapper which was made of native palm, unlike the Chinese tikoy which is cooked by dipping in eggs and frying them.
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.
Children usually graduate from pamamasko at age 13. It was nice observing the children who came to our house. My Dad would ask “Sino ang mga magulang mo? (Who are your parents?)” Or “Sino ang Ninong o Ninang mo? ( Who’s your godfather or god mother ?). It was a nice way of knowing the kids and their knowledge of their families or lineage. It was a time to get acquainted with the children of friends and relatives if the kids came for the first time or to get to be updated on how the kids had grown. There were some kids who came without a relative or godparent in our house, my parents gave them something for Christmas too.
That was Christmas in the olden days. I know I’ll never lose affection for people and things that went before and made Christmas special. I know I’ll stop and think about them specially during Christmas time.
Now it’s our turn to make Christmas memories special for the young ones.