Huge gift-wrapped presents with glimmering ribbons under the tall, green, Christmas tree; stockings of various sizes hung along the walls – filled with candies, chocolates, gold, edible coins scattered everywhere; the smell of honey-glazed ham, pasta, and hot bread, filled the atmosphere as the whole family awaits the birth of Jesus Christ; the dancing lights of different bold colors twinkle as the music plays in full tune during a cold, breezy, Christmas eve… This was Christmas for me in 21 years. 🙂

mano po

This year, I spent Christmas with my relatives in the southern part of Negros Occidental… and those things I said in the previous paragraph was nothing compared to the Christmas I just celebrated… (it is something new, something traditional, something special and extraordinary)

CHRISTMAS EVE

A few hours before the birth of the Lord, we were called to gather in a home to pray and sing with joy this “Gozos Estribillo” – people of different ages, relatives, guests, and strangers, all come together to celebrate Jesus’ coming.

Por vuestro bien y alegria, Jose muy gozosa estoy, A Dios las gracias le doy, Y el parabien a Maria. Por el gozo peregrino, Que vuestra alma recibo, Al saber que concibio, Del Espiritu Divino, Nuestra Esposa y que convino, Para el bie alma mia, A dios las gracias le doy, Y el parabien a Maria… – we sung 🙂

In front of a life-sized belen are the readers and prayer leaders, on my right are trumpeters,  drummers, and guitarists all for the whole celebration. There was an antifona and orasyon that followed.

Food was served after the prayer – hot puto and coco for everyone… and fireworks to adore.

home

Sto. Niño’s visit to our altar.

CHRISTMAS DAY

Waking up and running towards the tree to unwrap those gifts was definitely for the 7-year-old me. This time, I woke up with the whole Garcia clan. Grandmother to uncles to aunts, to cousins, to cousin’s cousin, to uncle’s cousins, to grandfather’s siblings, to the children’s children, to the siblings’ cousins, to everyone you could ever think of. 🙂

A mass was held near our home followed by another highlight of the day – the Christmas Luncheon with the large clan of relatives. 🙂

people

San Jose (wearing green, at the left), Mary (wearing white, at the middle)

nino jesus

Jesus portrayed by a male child.

Before lunch was served, a small, traditional play commenced. Similar to the Las Posadas of the Spaniards, this one was revised. There’s a real Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus (actors from every clan) being fed before all of us. After the feeding, we were all advised to go around them and pay respect by making “pagmamano” or “Mano Po” gestures to each of them. Then, lunch was served for everyone. 🙂

food

The simple food served during Christmas Lunch.

The whole day was celebrated with stories, reminiscing from the past – from rags to riches tales, the struggles of those working in the fields, the problems that were faced when a member of the family died – all of it in a single day of gathering in honor of the Lord. A family of prayer, love, joy, and simple happiness… A tradition that has been through several generations and still continues up to this day… A touch of the Spanish and Filipino culture rolled into Jesus’ birthday.

No wonder I loved this celebration more than just the presents… because this celebration is geared towards Jesus – the very reason why there’s Christ in Christmas. Simply put, it’s a lesson by nature as well as a celebration… 🙂

No gifts were under the small tree tucked beside the television set. No smell of glazed ham and hot bread. No large presents and gold coins. No stockings and no dancing lights… only family love. 🙂 I guess that’s all I ever wanted. 😀

and this view…

this copy

 

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