Every year, our family participates in the great Christmas migration and we pay a ton of money to fly home and spend it with our loved ones.
As a military family, "home" is wherever Mom and Dad are.
To us, home is more than just a physical structure. Home is where we feel safe and secure. Home is where we feel warm. Home is where we can let loose and go crazy or chill after an incredibly long day. Home is also where you eat...a lot.
My oldest kid is almost six and he's already called five different places "home". My friend said to him
and he said "No, not really. I like living wherever my mom and dad are." *cue the "aww"* I used to call Chicago "home" when my parents lived there, but now that both my parents and my husbands parents are living in Las Vegas.. that's home now.
Both my husband and I are first generation Filipino. That means, our parents immigrated from the Philippines and had us here in the US. Our culture runs deep and over the years we've established sort of a hybrid Christmas of Filipino and American Traditions. We both have Santa Claus, Christmas trees, Christmas cards, and the traditional Christmas carols.
Filipinos are incredibly religious but also incredibly flamboyant and over the top. So go figure our Christmas celebrations start in September and end in January. Christmas carols, decorations, lights, nativity scenes- all of that come out in September. Christmas shopping is done from September until December. In America, you get chastised by the social media warriors if you post anything Christmas related before Halloween. So our Christmas celebration begins on November 1st- that's when all our Christmas decorations come out and Jingle Bells is substituted by The Monster Mash.
There are these traditional Filipino lanterns called Parol. It's a lantern in the shape of a five pointed star. It's made of bamboo and colorful paper. They're incredibly gaudy and loud but have morphed into some more modern silhouettes. We couldn't find any Parol in America, but finding a tree topper that sort of resembled it paid homage to our Filipino roots.
In the Philippines there is a series of nine midnight masses starting on December 16th until December 24th. There is a belief that if you attend mass all nine nights, then you'll be granted a special wish by The Big Man Upstairs. Since there is only midnight mass on Christmas Eve night, we go then and just accept the fact we won't get our special wish!
Filipinos loooooove to sing. So of course, there is Christmas caroling during the Christmas season. Sometimes kids get together to fundraise for something and sing in a neighborhood. But most of the time its bored siblings getting together with their guitars and tambourines singing for the neighbors in exchange for Christmas present money. After, they sing or dance their "thanks". Since it's not really in the American culture to go door to door singing in exchange for cash, we basically limit our singing to our TV and a Magic Mic (karaoke). On Christmas Eve/Christmas night, we have sing offs where each person "buys ins", sings the round, and whoever gets the highest karaoke score wins the pot! No we're not very good and we don't use our winnings to buy Christmas gifts, but it's a good time!
In the Philippines we have a tradition of Noche Buena. Where you eat an incredibly fancy meal at midnight or after midnight mass. In our family, we morphed it into a HUGE and fancy Christmas Eve Dinner (where you basically eat from 5PM until 11PM- wear something stretchy!), go to midnight mass, then come home have a snack then go to bed. The Filipino Christmas spread has lechon (roasted pig), pancit, lumpia, shrimp, rice, sweet rice cakes, ham, fruit salad, and looooots of drinks. Sometimes the kids can make it and we open presents after midnight mass, but that tradition has dwindled since everyone in the family gets super duper tired at 8PM and we have to try and power through the rest of the evening.
On Christmas Day, we also follow the Filipino tradition of visiting our older relatives and godparents. After we open presents, we get dressed up in our "Sunday Best" and have Christmas breakfast, Christmas brunch/lunch, and a Christmas dinner each at a different relative's house. Yes, we do eat all day. When we enter the house we show respect with 'mano' where the younger person grabs the elder's hand, and touches it to their forehead. It's a sign of respect. We use this gesture even when it's not Christmas time. This is our kids favorite because they get to hang out with their cousins, show their aunts/uncles/older relatives/godparents their cool new toys, AND they get lots of money from the elders.
Our hearts and our bellies (no joke!) are full on Christmas. The adult's wallets are empty and the kids wallets are full. I love how our little family evolved and fused our traditional Filipino customs with modern American ones. So from my family to yours, Maligayang Pasko- Merry Christmas, I hope you love being home for the holidays!