Tag Archives: Christmas in the new normal

We’ll Be Home For Christmas

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.

Christmas circa 1960

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.

Christmas circa 1960

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.

Christmas 2018, photo by Ronnel Tolentino
Christmas 2019, photo by Ronnel Tolentino

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.

Ber Months

Ber months , as we call them, are September, October , November and December, for obvious reasons. In the Philippines, September marks the onset or start of anticipation of the Christmas season. Some radio stations start playing Christmas carols albeit sparingly . Department stores start displaying Christmas decorations and items. Some people start to prepare their Christmas shopping list and some send greetings.

I wondered how things would be with the new normal because of the pandemic.

Here’s what I’ve observed:

On September 1, I received a few greetings linked to Christmas songs e.g.

On September 2, I went to the mall to buy groceries and found Christmas display in the department store of the mall. The piped-in music played mall-wide included Christmas carols. But the shoppers were there for the essentials, despite the many Sale offers.

I haven’t heard Christmas carols playing through the radio but I’ve read accounts of people who have heard Christmas carols with mixed emotions.

It’s an indication of our wish to go back to what we’ve always considered as normal, a hope that towards December we would be celebrating the Christmas season as we have celebrated year after year and probably happier if we have triumphed over the unseen enemy by then . Hope springs eternal.