I miss the kind of Filipino Christmas Celebration...no matter how little money we had then, we would always have something special on the table for Christmas. I remember my usual role was to prep the leche flan and lumpiang shanghai. My Nanay would prepare the buko salad (or macaroni or fruit), and my younger sister would cook pancit. The men are usually busy with the bakery giveaways and distribution then. My older sister was not living with us anymore since she was in college, and would just visit us during holidays, often not really to join in the cooking. This preparation time I missed most because of the "stress" of preparing food in time for Noche Buena. Then we would always have some party-ing involving karaoke and some dancing, whether or not we actually knew how to. In the small subdivision where we lived then, we had a brief Christmas party with exchange gifts and some singing/dancing program and eating the potluck foods. Then we would come back home and have our own Noche Buena, followed by the most awaited moment by the kids: giving our gifts to them. They were always excited to receive theirs, no matter how cheap they were. The adults get gifts and had to be content with what the others could afford (don't we all?). Very little did we have in money terms, and it was with heavy heart that we indulge in this once-a-year important event...a time to forget about our worries no matter how short, and just bask in the presence and love of one another in the family.
Now here in the US, as I try to recreate the same atmosphere, I only have several established friends that I do these things with, although some are still quite shy to dance or sing, and most of the kids do not feel like joining in with the adults. They have their computer games to enjoy, in the company of other kids. I don't mind, really. As long as we are having fun, that's all that matters. However, I wish I had my family of origin to share this moment with as well. The photos below show the foods we prepared. They were all lined up on my countertops. We used the dining table mainly for eating.
In trying to recreate the hustle and bustle, I prepped quite a lot of foods, although it really got tiring to prep all I wanted singlehandedly. Of course my sons could pitch in some, but it is never the same preparing foods while chatting with the other females in the family. I created and sent out 20++ invitations to Filipinos here, both known to me personally or not. Only 4 were able to make it, one declined (out of state) and the rest did not even care to respond/leave a message on my phone. Would I dare do the same thing next year? Probably not. I will just call my closest friends and plan for the party, just like we did in the previous years.
My visitors all had some food to share. We had monito-monita both for us adults and exchange gifts for the kids. I made it a point to emphasize that the gifts be less than $15, only so we get into the spirit of gift-giving. While the kids did DDR, we adults just contented ourselves chatting with one another.
We had fun enough to somewhat satisfy our craving for Filipino companionship during this season.
I do not have any religious allusions to this season. Please do not attack me for being an agnostic Christian.
"Kusina" = Kitchen; "Manang" = older sister
A Filipina's unabashed chronicle of her adaptations in the American kitchen. Includes step-by-step photos on how to make pan de sal, ensaymada, pan de coco, siopao, hopia, pandelimon, pianono, atsara, crema de fruta,etc., and if you are lucky, you will find videos too!