Childhood memories of Christmas
Reasons why Christmas is for children
Christmas season is the most anticipated and my favorite time of the year when I was a child. I grew up in a Catholic country -- The Philippines and we celebrate Christmas as early as September. The early signs that the season has begun is that Christmas songs are played in the radio of my father as early as 4 am on September first. Christmas comes early in the Philippines.
As a child, I grew up with doing lots of stuff during Christmas season. As an adult, I always believed that Christmas is for children and the excitement fades as I grew up because of the anticipated expenditures, unlike before I just receive gifts and don’t need to worry about money. However, there is joy in giving and I enjoy the togetherness of family during this season. I love children and for that alone, if Christmas brings happiness to children, then it is really worth the celebration.
As a child, I am anticipating this season all year round. I would always play it in my mind that it will be Christmas soon again, then I could have many gifts and I could go around houses at night singing and people will give you candies or money after singing Christmas song in their doorstep. I enjoy caroling. I am not alone in doing this, I will go with my friends and we will be together making rounds in the houses in the neighborhoods. For a child, nothing is more happier than being with your friends at night playing at the same time collecting some money or candies given by people. We used our house to practice the songs, my elder sister will let us sing one by one and to have our own instrument or just the maracas. It is a percussion instrument made of coconut shell or gourd shell filled with beans inside of it, that when you shake it, it will produced sounds, and you play with it while singing. My brother usually plays the guitar, and he died last year.
During Christmas, I helped my mother with putting up a Betlehem. This is in remembrance where the Christ has been born in a humble haystack. I always imagine it could be itchy down there with that stable. And I always picture horses and other animals surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ. I prefer horses that’s why I always try to imagine that the horses were galloping and restless when He was born.
My favorite Christmas décor is the Christmas lantern. It is usually shaped liked a star with colorful trimmings and it is put in every window or door of every houses. My mother used to do it herself and I would help her do it. And of course Christmas trees with lights on it, usually blinking lights with different colors. I would always say to my mother why is it that we use native woods and we have been using the ornaments for almost like five years already. She would always tell me that we cant buy a new one and besides it is still working. Of course, the Christmas tree is taller than me until I was 18 and ready to leave the house to go to the city.
Misa De Gallo
As a child I enjoy Misa De Gallo. It is the midnight mass at December 24th at exactly 12 midnight. This ritual lasts for nine days following the 25th of December. From December 16th to 23rd early in the morning, people will attend the early mass at 4 to 5 am. I usually go with lots of people walking at the same time going to the church. It is believed that if you finished the whole nine days of attending the mass everyday, your wishes will be fulfilled. After the mass, people will be selling different delicacies outside the church. Some foods are native food such as puto bumbong (a purple colored rice pastry, tsokolate (a hot cocoa drink, bibingka (flour and egg cakes cooked on top and under), and salabat, ginger tea.
Now the month of December is pretty exciting for me. I anticipate Christmas exchange gift. People will be exchanging gifts and this goes on until the Christmas day. In every class in the school children will be exchanging gifts with their classmates. When I was a child it will usually start ten days before the Christmas party where you are required to bring a gift for your monito (this is the person whom you picked their names for the final exchange gift). There is usually a “need to bring item” everyday, like something hard, something funny etc. You are not to divulge the name of the person you are giving the gift too. Usually they placed a big basket inside the classroom so children can put their gift there. I am so excited to look for my gifts in the box. Other children will be wondering to whom they will be giving their gifts as everybody has a code name.
Exchange gifts is also common everywhere, in an office setting, among your friends, among family members, neighborhood, extended family, club you belong etc. My mother always asked my help together with my sister when we wrapped gifts and this will take as the whole day. I am just excited because it means that I too will have lots of gifts.
Noche buena is a Spanish word meaning "good night", referring to the night of Christmas eve where the family eat and stays together after going to the church at midnight. Included in the table are roast pig, ham, fruits like apples, arroz caldo, rice, cake, pastries pork or beef stew and different native desserts like rice cakes etc. It is the time when the family eat together, and after eating open their gifts. What I like most in this part is when I go and make rounds and distribute foods to the houses around the neighborhood before we go to church. I like giving foods and receiving in return. They wont let you go until you will also received foods from them.
Part of my good behavior specially when the Christmas is nearing is due to the fact that when I was a kid, I would pretend to be good because I believe that Santa Claus will give me what I am wishing for if I have good attitude. As early as mid November my mother would remind us about it, in order for us to behave. She would asked us to make a letter enumerating our wishes and requests from Santa Claus and she pretend to mail it, but I found out that she doesn’t mail them and I found out that my parents are the real Santa Claus. At first, my brother wouldn’t believe me. I was nine years old when I discovered the truth but I pretended not to know it. I caught my mother putting all the things I wish for in the bag (not stockings) I placed at the door in the kitchen. And in the midnight after we have our feast “noche buena” together as a family, we will sleep. When we are awake, we will all run to the place where we put our bags or stockings. Then my siblings will compare what we have got from Santa. My parents then will tell us that Santa Claus is poor this time (she always tell us the same thing every year anyway).
Going around to visit godparents
Christmas day is the day when we visit out godparents and collect our gifts from them. It is also the time when some godparents would hide from their godchildren specially if they didn’t prepare some gifts for them. They are forced to give money to children. As a child, I don’t like to receive money as I am not used to receiving it, I usually put the money between a notebook and buy me some post it or stickers later.
Usually Christmas parties for children are held in their school. They have drama, skits, song and dance numbers to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. Parents are invited usually on the day children will perform. I wonder sometimes my mother wouldn’t allow me to join three performances because she told me costumes are expensive and we cant afford it, my father would just say yes.
Christmas parties are also anticipated because after the program and the party, there is a two weeks Christmas vacation until you go back again to the school and it will be another year already. Usually Christmas holidays in the Philippines run for two weeks starting third week of December until the next Monday of January. This is the same in school and government offices. An average person will have to attend more than five Christmas parties. The thing is, you need to bring gifts every time you have to attend.
There you go, the stuff we do during Christmas season. It is fun filled and I always anticipate it until I was eighteen years old and I moved to the city to study.