Christmas Traditions Never Forgotten
SOME FAVORITE HOLIDAY MEMORIES
I Loved Christmas Eve Night
Since I was about eleven years old, my parents have invited family over for dinner and opening presents up around the tree. It was a chance to get an early start to the celebration without my aunts and uncles of my Mom and Dad, and the cousins and extended family members from out of town. My Mom, my Dad, my two brothers, me, my uncle ( Dad's best friend), my cousin and her two daughters were usually the traditional ones to visit. This has been an opportunity to open gifts from just immediate family, and have a cozy home cooked meal by my Mom. We would sit around the family room admiring the tree, the smell of the food cooking in the oven, and if it is cold enough, the warm fire in the fireplace.
The joy of the room was in Mom's decorating. The tree she put together has always been fabulous. She collected different exotic ornaments that look like birds, and special glass blown ornaments in shape of pine cones, stars and flowers. She has some older tree ornaments the look like bells with soft downy angel hair inside of them. And there are ornaments that have rhinestone jewels and beads attached. The tree is green, and through out the years, the lights have gone from multiple colored to pink, to all white. My most favorite lighted ornament of all is a ladder that is painted white. It sits on the floor next to the tree, and on this ladder are three or four little mice who are dressed like elves and there are little tiny packages and sparkled bulbs on the ladder, giving it an effect that these little mice have something to do with the decorating on my mother's tree. And Mom's tree was not complete without angels! She had many angels.
DAD'S FAVORITE CHRISTMAS MUSIC
Dad always picked out the music, quite traditional. When we had the old stereo with the turntable, we would listen to Mitch Miller Singers, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, and Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker suite. I can remember being woken out of my sleep a few nights before Christmas because Daddy insisted on listening to his favorite Christmas music at the loudest while he put the lights and helped decorate the tree. We eventually went to the artificial tree. Now he enjoys listening to Classical guitar as well as Operatic voice (such as "The Four Tenors")
The best part of this night was of course, the meal. Mom always had a beef dish, and we usually have a fish dish as well. Rice, a traditional Filipino staple, is always served as well as Mom's Famous Mashed Potatoes. We usually had a garnish tray with homemade watermelon pickles, olives and bread and butter pickles. For an appetizer, we have a special Jello Salad, made of Green jello, Cream or cottage cheese, pineapple and served on lettuce leaf. This year, Mom says we will probably start out with a carrot raisin salad. Then we have assorted vegetables like steamed carrots, with cauliflower, and a green bean dish with my favorite capped mushrooms.
The dessert was usually an assortment of petit fours, baklava, danishes made of fruits, nuts, or chocolates, and my oldest brother's favorite, coconut layer cake.
My cousin loves to bring her homemade potato rolls and if she has time she will make her assortment of cookies, which are unique and fabulous: jelly filled, raisin filled, chocolate chip vanilla, peanut butter with the chocolate kiss in the middle, rum balls, snow drop cookies (covered with powdered sugar) and oatmeal cinnamon raisin.
Everyone comes hungry and we also love the assortment of snacks to munch on while we wait for the call to eat: Assortment of cashews, and nuts, Cheese and fancy crackers, chinese lumpia (like a little eggroll) and assorted beverages from bubbly to sweet. And lately Mom has also provided assortment of special candies to munch on as well.
HERE COMES SANTA CLAUS
Every year since I was six years old, in our suburban neighborhood, the local volunteer fire department, which is just up the street from my Mom and Dad traditionally will have "Santa Claus" on the fire truck and they ride around the scope of five miles of the neighboring streets including my parent's residential neighborhood to wave at all the children and adults who are looking on. He is quite the jolly one, and this past year took his time coming around and even looked a bit tipsy on top of the firetruck. With a brilliant light shining upon him, and with a microphone, you can here him bellow out "HOHOHO!" His costume is authentic to the description of his role, the long white beard, the bright red jacket over his protruding tummy, and those big black boots make any individual believe who he is. I remember on the first time I ever saw him, I was sick with a fever and didn't feel well, and my Mom let me stand outside in the cold in my robe and slippers to wave to him. I really believed that this "firetruck Santa" was the Santa I was waiting for to put the presents under and around our tree.
LET'S GO TO MIDNIGHT MASS
Our traditional Christmas Eve celebration ended with the attendance of our local Parish where they had Midnight Service, or what the Catholics call Midnight mass. I was very excited with this. Even though the church was quite swollen with people, I was amazed at the glow of candles, the smell of pine, the beautiful floral arrangements of poinsettias, and the awesome Nativity scene, presenting the Holy Family who is Mother Mary, Joseph and Jesus. The choir, who was made up of all boys and a few Baritone men, and some brass with percussion to accompany the organist and the conductor, sang so beautiful, like the angels I so much adored. I didn't care how tired I was, I loved it. From that point on, the best Christmas songs to me are "Oh Holy Night" and "The Little Drummer Boy" and "Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem".
TRADITION STILL WITH OUR CHILDREN
My Mom and Dad always kept up with the growing changes of our family. Even when we all moved away and grew up, had come home from college, married, had children and now even our children have grown up and started going to college, we still get together as family. Even after I divorced my children's dad, he still has continued to come to Christmas Eve dinner. Oh how that has made the family tradition so interesting. My memories of Christmas Eve night dinner tradition spans forty years of my life! I would have to write a memoir chapter book to recapture ALL the memories.
Even though my parents are older, and their grandchildren are all in their twenties, we have always cherished being together. We put aside the bickering, the grudges and the disappointments for at least one night.
OTHER CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS I LOVE
The night following, every year as long as I can remember, we share the continuance of celebration with the rest of the extended families. Because the family has grown so BIG with the cousins getting married and having lots of children, then the gifting has gotten so pricey. We resolved this issue by exchanging in a circle game. We each bring an anonymously wrapped gift put it in the center of the circle, and numerically, we take turns picking out the most interesting. There is always traditionally a gag gift (usually a funny looking cookie jar) and there is always someone who just likes to give money.
The meal for this Filipino Christmas Dinner, has always the Roasted Pig. Someone always manages to bring a traditional turkey too. There are a lot of meat eaters in the family, so when I see vegetables (usually combined with Pancit and Rice) I always have a healthy serving of that.There is usually Fish, a Chicken Dish, and a platter of Lumpia (little eggrolls). The Filpino desserts are my favorite too: Babinka (which is coconut rice), Lecheflan (egg custard with caramel sauce), Ube Icecream ( purple icecream made from the purple yam), and a traditional Filipino cake (3 inches thick with colorful butter frosting). My most favorite of all is the fruit salad which is assorted mix of fruits and macapuno (Coconut fruit strings).
Seeing my favorite cousins, and aunts and uncles and all the offspring of my married cousins is so wonderful, especially when I get to see my cousins from the Philippines who have come to visit. Traveling is getting more of a challenge for them, so if they show up, it is a special event!
MY CHRISTMAS WISH IS THAT YOU ALL HAVE AS MUCH ENJOYMENT FROM A SPECIAL TRADITION. EVEN THOUGH OUR LIVES MAY CHANGE, LOVE NEVER DOES. SO I HOPE YOU ALL HAVE SOMEONE TO LOVE ON THIS CHRISTMAS.
- An Ode to the Christmas Tree
a decorated Christmas tree- tres jolie! Oh Effervescent Pine, In your gracious stance How lighthearted You must feel With your robe Of silvery tinsel About you, And your adornment Of...