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Posts Tagged ‘noche buena’

Growing up in the Philippines, the Christmas holiday season is a very festive one.  Christmas trees go up right after All Soul’s Day on November 2nd.  Decorations are colorful and abundant and Christmas lights and lanterns dominate the streets, gardens and gates of houses.  Yuletide music can be heard wafting through the air from neighbor’s homes, supermarket speakers and shopping centers – some as early as September.

There are no snows, no pine cones and no chestnuts roasting on an open fire but the feeling of Christmas is an unmistakable one and here are a few reasons why I miss being in the Philippines this time of year:

a festive Christmas tree up close

1.) Children caroling on your house’s front steps in the weeks prior to Christmas.

Nothing adds more holiday cheer than the sight and sounds of little ones enthusiastically ringing your doorbell and belting out their own off-key renditions of Silent Night and Jingle Bells with their tambourines and Santa hats.  And scuttling off just as quickly to the next house once they receive some coins and goodies – even when they were still in the midst of their performance.

2.) I miss my friends.

There are high school friends and university friends, groups and organization friends and social friends – the kind of people you prefer to hang out with regardless of any affiliation.  The weeks before Christmas Day are a mad round of dinners and parties for each group and catching up with them in a festive atmosphere are always heartwarming.

3.) There is no noche buena and no misa de gallo here in The Netherlands.

I miss that warm, fuzzy feeling when the whole family comes home from midnight mass on December 24 and sit down together for a meal.  The table is abundantly laid out with foods like the lechon (whole roasted pig), chicken relleno (stuffed roasted chicken), camaron rebosado, pancit, lumpia and the like and traditional delicacies like biko, puto bumbong and bibingka with hot chocolate made from the real cacao plant.

Food is a central theme in any Filipino gathering and no other occasion than Christmas brings out the most meticulous planning and preparation on what to serve on this occasion.

4.) Christmas family parties in the Philippines are like family dramas on steroids.

I miss the family gathering which always starts in a happy mood and everyone is having fun, singing and dancing and lots of laughter.  Then everyone slowly gets a little bit inebriated and then the drama begins.  An aunt or uncle usually starts a discussion or rehash an old wound which quickly turns into an argument and everyone else join the fray and everybody starts shouting and crying.  And then they all end up eventually hugging each other and being friends –- or relatives again.

The unfolding drama is entertainment fodder to us –- namely me, my sister and my cousins who are all quietly chuckling in the background.  And it happens year after year and in most other families as well.

As these sweet memories run through my mind, I can’t help but smile; feel wistful and nostalgic about Christmas back home… so here’s wishing you all a very lovely and heartwarming celebration wherever you may be in the world.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! Cheers!

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