Christmas back home has been a blast, it drove me slightly crazy, but the best ones always do.
Have I explained why JG and I chose not to come home during the holidays in the six years we were at post? As I said earlier, basically because we wanted to get away from the crazy.
While the take is a day or a week to gather with family, the prelude to this wonderful moment can be too much to some people, especially if you have lived it for most of your life.
For my non-Filipino readers, Christmas in the Philippines is one of the longest celebrated in the world. Unofficially it starts in October, some even as early as September or what we call “ber”-months. I remember an American Diplowife who was posted here in Manila, once wrote on her blog how hearing Carols and seeing decors out three months ahead made her feel stressed out. She explained how overwhelming it was to have yet to think about Thanksgiving and Holloween and already she’s being bombarded with the Christmas preparations.
And I get that, despite being Filipino, I understand that our minds should be able to settle at one holiday at a time, especially for homemakers whose role in the needed preparations requires a lot of planning and coordination. And personally starting the anticipation three months ahead, kind of burns-out the anticipation, leaving you in cinders, exhausted and exasperated by the time the actual day arrives.
Here in the Philippines, especially in Manila, the ber-months bring with it traffic jams, increase in petty crime rate, as well as accidents from all the drunken parties happening all over. The holiday mall sales seem irrelevant since you would have to provide for both your known and unknown God-children that will descend on your house come December 25.
This is why, I am truly sorry to say, that even though the pang of being away from Family on Christmas and New Year never goes away, I find solace in the quiet ones JG and I experienced living abroad.
I remember one particular Christmas Eve in Muscat, JG and I got some Chinese take-out from Qurum and was getting ready to watch Die Hard and Love Actually. And for a few minutes, I sat there alone waiting for my husband and soaked in the serenity of it all.
I am sounding like a Scrooge/Grinch here, don’t get me wrong I love Christmas as much as the next Pinoy, I just wished our culture didn’t hyped it up so much. So much so that nowadays we barely mention why we originally celebrate anyway… (do you remember what that is?)
And since we now found ourselves unable to escape Filipino Christmas, I bared my teeth and prepared for it. I got a head start to get my presents ready for its would-be recipients, and made preparations to ensure a stress-free Noche Buena (Christmas Eve feast).
Part of me wished that perhaps after six years of being away, it would be different this time around, a Christmas miracle that is free of traffic jams, petty thieves, and drunken accidents, but alas some things I guess never change.
That being said, I haven’t completely gone anti-Pasko (Filipino for Christmas or Yuletide). I still also firmly believe, like most Pinoys who have come, gone, and returned, that there is nothing like Christmas at home, particularly Christmas in the Philippines.
What I did miss and re-experienced is the inexpiable feeling of hopefulness, joy, kindness, and urge for togetherness this holiday spirit brings. I am pleasantly baffled at how Filipinos are able to strive and even smile through all the stressful things I mentioned earlier, and for some weird reason find even more patience to tolerate all this simply because it’s Christmas.
And even though I openly admit to have opted to pass it all up while I was outside the country, getting reacquainted with this Christmas-y spirit makes it even better. Like eating a warm favorite dish you haven’t had in a long time. All the feel-good nostalgia comes back to you, and slowly you are reminded why it’s the most awaited holiday all year round.
And like I said personally the ultimate take is being with family and seeing old friends. Over the six months that I have been home I have had several encounters with one or two loved-ones, but during the holidays I had that one day where almost everybody was there! And it was just great!
I do have some more posts coming in the following days, A year-end special (one I haven’t done in a quite a while), and another mountain hiking experience into the cold mountains of the Cordillera provinces.
Here’s a sneak peak of the best views I have seen…