When does the holiday season start for you? It has always been a Filipino tradition to begin preparing for the holidays as early as September, which is the start of the “ber” months as we call it. Everyone seems to be happier and livelier during these months out of all the months of the year. I call that the Holiday Effect. The effect might have mellowed as I grew up but it feels just the same. I still get the excitement in decorating our house with Christmas ornaments and preparing gifts for those dear to me, not to mention all those savory dishes and colorful desserts served during the season. Here are the activities I’ve done with family and friends to celebrate Christmas 2016:
Decorating the house for Christmas
When we were in the Philippines, we usually start thinking of Christmas decoration just before the start of September because the season starts as soon as we feel the chilly long nights and the need for thicker clothing. I really look forward to it as a kid because it’s probably the only season we change something in the house.We still think ahead here in New Zealand but it’s not a pressure to decorate the house until the end of November and we don’t feel those chilly nights no more, it’s the complete opposite here. Christmas happens to be a summer time so the hot days are longer. .I mean really long, the sun doesn’t set until it’s about 9:00 pm(believe it or not). I was really surprised about that discovery when I first came here but it’s fascinating for me since I’m a usually a night owl. We retained the gold and red theme we’ve had since 2013 because the materials are kept well(why not use them?) and my mom likes gold stuff, while my favorite is red (my dad just complied.hehe).
There’s no better way to prepare for Christmas than observing the Advent season through attending midnight masses 9 days before Christmas day called “Simbang Gabi” in Filipino. Each day of the novena reminds us about the true meaning of Christmas, it is when our savior is born. The time for the masses vary nowadays from night to early morning due to people’s busy schedules but this Filipino tradition is still intact and kept alive. We also wouldn’t want to miss those bibingkas, puto bumbong, and other delicacies sold outside the church just this time of the year. I’m really happy that we are still observing these 9 days novena even though we’re miles away from the Philippines, although without the delicacies being sold, we still managed to end it well with a simple feast on the last day of the novena.
One of the highlights of this holiday season is having parties that will surely fill you up and bring you into high spirits. I got to join the decorating team for our Christmas Party so I feel more immersed in the activity. We started it by praying the Rosary. The program starts with a cute performance from the kids and some games. This year there will be two teams, red(the team I belong) and green, that will accumulate points through winning different games and the losing team will have to clean up after the party so I think we’re more fired up. We had a festive dinner and exchange gifts. It’s a plus that the red team won but the fun end to the party was when we tried the famous “Mannequin Challenge” wherein we planned out our poses and almost everyone managed to stay still as the camera was moved around.
Watching Santa’s Parade
It’s the first time I was able to watch Santa’s Parade because we keep on canceling going there for the past years due to the swarm of people and jam-packed parking lots. We came earlier this time and fortunately found a place for a good picture taking. .though people then started to crowd and it was inevitable to take just the photos of the floats themselves. We waited for almost two hours just standing there while the clowns and other crews entertain the children and pass on giveaways. When I thought I can’t wait any longer the parade started(at last!) and it was interesting to see different characters like the little mermaid, Tinkerbell, Batman, Minions, and more. There’s nothing much to say from then on because I took my time taking photos and even got live on facebook to share this amusement with my friends. Here are some photos I took(please excuse the crowded people) which I hope will give you a glimpse of my experience:
Noche Buena and Thanksgiving Party
The most awaited day of the Christmas season is, of course, the Christmas Eve. It has been a tradition in our family to stay awake until midnight and have a simple feast, which we call “Noche Buena”, to celebrate the birth of Christ. The smell of the braised ham and baked macaroni are always a joy to have in our table. I am glad and thankful that we manage to do this every year. I always look forward to it because celebrating with the whole family is the most important for me.
We’ve also decided to host a thanksgiving party for the year 2016, two days after Christmas. Our close friends gathered in our abode to celebrate with us. The gifts we prepared for them were also given that day, it’s a bit late but we decided to give them at the thanksgiving party because it’s the best day to show our gratitude to our treasured friends. We had long chit-chats and even sang along with the karaoke(tho it tends to lag so our voices sounded funny trying to keep up with the lyrics). I want to share with you some of the photos taken that day.
Though it’s easy to recognize Christmas when we talk about the holiday season, there’s another celebration which comes right after it that continues everyone’s cheers. Who else is glad that Christmas and New year are so close together? I am sure I’m not the only one. Thanks to that, everyone gets their long vacation at the end of the year.It’s like a breather before launching ourselves, stronger and better, to a new year ahead. That’s why we also make an effort as a family to be together during the New Year’s eve. They say that those people who are with you the moment the clock strikes 12 midnight, will always be with you throughout the year, and I kinda believe that. I have this mission since I was a kid, to gather all the people in the house before New Year comes and I’m so glad I succeed every time.It reassures me that the next year will be something to look forward to and I will have more courage because the people I love the most are right by my side.
There is also a tradition(I think we got it from the Chinese culture) wherein you have to put twelve round fruits on the table during New year’s eve dinner called “Medianoche”. It is said to give you twelve months of good luck throughout the year. We managed to find those twelve round fruits this year, which my mom is so pleased about. This time we opened some wine to bring good cheers for the new year then ate the simple feast prepared by the chef of the day, my mom. I can say that this holiday season is yet again a meaningful part of my year that I spent with my dearest family and friends. I already feel so lucky for that. I am now recharged and ready for another year in my life and I look forward to the journeys I will have this year. Let us all be aware that a successful life doesn’t only depend on luck but also the effort we put into it. So let us start the year 2017 with much more determination and perseverance. Happy New Year everyone! May this year be bountiful and blessed for all of us. Cheers!