It’s just a week or so before Christmas, and almost every Filipino family is abuzz with preparations for the most wonderful time of the year. While some are still up to their elbows shopping for gifts, others are intent on keeping Christmas traditions which their families started years ago.
Ann Kuy, mom of three, shares, “It’s our 16th year to play ‘My Role in the Manger’ as a family. We started it in 2000 when we had our first child. While sipping hot cocoa generously topped with marshmallows, we set up the Christmas tree and take turns sharing who we thought we were in the manger scene. It can be the selflessness and obedience of Mary or the supportive Joseph or even the quiet participation of the sheep. It’s a great family bonding activity as well as an opportunity to give thanks and reflect on the year that passed.”
The family of Tina Rodriguez stays faithful to a number of traditions during the season of Advent like the Jesse Tree, Christmas book countdown, and Advent wreath. Tina is a homeschooling mom and self-professed media missionary.
She adds, “On Christmas Day and during the entire Christmas season, we also have our own family traditions like going to Mass together, having a simple birthday celebration for Jesus (complete with a birthday cake as much as possible), praying special Christmas prayers together, and blessing our Baby Jesus image. We also uncover our ‘hidden’ Baby Jesus images in our Nativity sets on display to symbolize His being ‘born’ on Christmas Day.”
“My husband and I started these faith-centered Christmas traditions, though of course we also have other traditions passed on from our respective parents, like spending time with family members and the Noche Buena, etc. All our traditions are special because we try our best to keep the focus on Jesus, the true Reason for the Christmas season. We also treasure moments with our loved ones, especially our kids and immediate family members.”
For the family of Boots Carmona, mom of two, Christmas is the gathering together of families.
She says, “Christmas day is always reunion day for me and my family and relatives. I am like Santa Claus at home, preparing ampaos for all the kids. Even my neighbors’ kids drop by after church, magmamano, and then I would give them a red envelope. There’s always a buffet lunch prepared at home for all my guests and we play traditional bingo where my prizes range from simple home items and then the blackout prize is cash!”
“Last year when I got sick of cancer, we spent a quiet Christmas in Tagaytay. I just wanted my immediate family around me and we stayed in a rented house for three days, playing board games, sharing stories, and dining around in Tagaytay. I missed my Christmas reunions but I was too sad and broken to even think of planning for one last year. This year, I have overcome my cancer and my MRI and tumor marker tests are all good! So I have the inspiration to plan for another Christmas reunion at home and share the blessings and happiness with my family and relatives like I used to.”
Christmas day is a big celebration for the Soliman family. In 1960, Bonifacia Gococo-Soliman, the first woman president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce, and her husband Col. Pedro Soliman, a military doctor, started spending Christmas morning by having breakfast with the inmates of the Tarlac Provincial Jail. A deeply religious woman, Bonifacia thought of it as one of her corporal acts of mercy.
The tradition was continued by Bonifacia’s children and their children’s children, and today the simple breakfast has evolved into a fun-filled family activity with delicious food and parlor games.
Myra Salvosa, one of Bonifacia’s grandchildren, is grateful for this sacred tradition. And every year, she brings her own children to the provincial jail on Christmas morning to break bread with the inmates. What started out as an act of mercy by her grandmother has become for her family a tradition which has not only strengthened their ties but has taught them the importance of sharing their blessings with others.