A Holiday letter from the Team
In our story conference for December, the ScenePH team wondered how we would be able to frame Christmas in the world of 2020 – in a world of social distancing, masks, face shields, and community quarantines. Christmas, for us and many others, is about coming together. And the biggest question we asked ourselves was: How? How do we keep the Christmas spirit alive in a time like this? How do we transmit that spirit to our readers, and, possibly, bring them – you – a little more warmth during this season?
We looked back at the Christmases of the past, the ones we’d spend around a table with our families and friends; the ones we’d spend discussing the relaunch of what was then MVNDO Magazine. And here we are now, once again sharing our stories and the stories we come across with you – the same ones that first brought us together and have kept us unified for the last four years. To say that we’re grateful for the support and encouragement we received at the launch of ScenePH would be an understatement.
And so, to end an unimaginably taxing year for everyone, we decided to share with you the stories of Christmases that keep us going, that keep the spirit of the season alive. And we hope that it gives you some inspiration to keep your own Christmas stories and traditions going, albeit now a little changed, a little evolved.
Without further delay, a year-end love letter from the team to you:
My mom being a Muslim, and me being an atheist, we don’t really celebrate Christmas in the traditional sense. What I do is create Christmas presents for friends and family with my girlfriend.
The only difference for this year was that we had to change the artwork and item we were going to give out. The decision to keep this tradition alive is to make people feel some sort of normalcy, especially to those who have come to expect our unique gifts.
Every year, my dad’s side celebrates Christmas with dinner on the 25th. We are a big family that loves to eat, so that means a lot of food!
This year though, we are practicing social distancing by sharing a meal virtually via Zoom. We’ll each be receiving special food packs with family favorites, so we can still eat “together” during the holidays.
Chat groups have never been more alive! Phone calls and sending each other food and little gifts has also become more normal. It’s a way of sharing, albeit apart.
My favorite Christmas tradition used to be dressing up for Christmas Eve mass, going to all the titos’ houses, and ending the night with dinner and opening gifts under my lolo and lola’s Christmas tree. As the cousins grew older, and my lolo passed away, the traditions somehow faded with them.
There’s no point living in the past though, so our family, although a bit smaller and perhaps less close, started new traditions – going to Cagayan de Oro, where an aunt’s family lives; going to Fully Booked after receiving the Christmas ampaw. Those were some of my favorites, and, if anything, they brought our family closer together than before.
This year, we obviously won’t be traveling, even if COVID protocols have laxed. And we’d rather not risk bringing our senior citizen parents to a commercial store. So, like most others, we’ll most likely be having Christmas dinner over zoom, and instead of the yearly trip to Fully Booked, my mom and I will be looking through the books we own, because there are too many books at home that we haven’t read. And at the end of the day, it all fulfills what Christmas means to us – a season of giving and being with the ones you love.
Christmas was always a holiday I grew up associating with my Lolo on my mother’s side. We went home every year to our maternal grandparents’ home in Quezon Province, a six-hour (sometimes eight) drive (almost pilgrimage) that marked the start of my Christmas break, and my favorite time of the year.
Ours was a holiday ripe with tradition: a Christmas tree filled to the brim with all the gifts from and for all the households; Santa socks hanging in the living area with our names carefully cut out and preserved over the years; Noche Buena with what feels like the entire barangay; our gift-giving and “pasabog” at midnight where we would welcome Chrismtas by throwing old coins to collect and convert into cash; and – a tradition that came after my grandmother passed away – our annual soup kitchen on Christmas day called, “Pamaskong Handog ni Mamang.”
But the best part for me was always my Lolo: spending time with him; hearing his booming voice in the morning; arriving at the house to his special sopas; waking up the next day to his longganisa and rice.
I was prepared for this year to be different. Lolo passed away December 20 last year and I always knew that this year Christmas wouldn’t shine as bright. Little did I know that this year was going to be a complete turn of events, and that because of this pandemic, we won’t even be able to make the drive.
For the first time in 23 years, Christmas will be spent here in the city instead. Instead of prepping Santa’s socks, we will spend the 24th with a Lord of the Rings movie marathon. Instead of a Noche Buena with my Lolo’s community, we will have an intimate dinner at home. And tomorrow, on Christmas day, our little exchange of gifts will become international for the first time: a new tradition made possible by technology (and Zoom), and funnily enough, only brought upon by this pandemic.
While Christmas looks and will no doubt feel different, I am glad to be spending it with family – the people who, by proximity (and no choice of ours), I have grown closer to, and am thankful for this year.
We usually celebrate Christmas eve with my relatives from dad’s side. We gather in my grandma’s house and have a potluck dinner. We have dinner early to allow room for noche buena with my immediate family at midnight. We exchange and open our gifts after eating.
On Christmas day, we celebrate with my mom’s side. My aunt hosts a lunch potluck at her house. After eating, my cousins would usually organize party games.
This pandemic, we’ll still be seeing our relatives, but in smaller batches. We won’t have big parties for now. I’d probably spend the entire holiday watching Christmas movies with my family at home.
I also miss having Christmas dinners with my different groups of friends. For now, we’re organizing Zoom parties to at least get caught up on how everyone is doing.
Honestly, I’m not feeling the holiday spirit this year. It’s been a depressing couple of days. This utterly depressing Christmas is this government’s fault and you can’t change my mind.
Merry Christmas to everyone except to Duterte and his allies!
Our traditions were strongly upheld by my late paternal and maternal grandparents, which we try to continue as much as we can now.
For Christmas Eve, we celebrate it on my mom’s side, in their old house. We bake our lola’s honey bread recipe. It’s never missing from the Noche Buena table. The menu is always the same: really fancy turkey, salmon, keso de bola, and paella. Everything is homemade. After dinner, we open gifts together. The kids are the ones to distribute the presents. We used to have red envelopes by the tree that our grandparents would fill up.
For Christmas Day, we celebrate naman on my dad’s side. This time it’s traditional food. Sisig is a must. I am an única hija so I like that I get spoiled with gifts from my relatives. We play christmas party games.
My mom and I also always prepare “Christmas goodie bags” for street children, which we give out on Christmas Day, as we travel to Marikina, where my paternal family lives.
Fortunately, we’ll still be able to continue this tradition. My maternal family are practically neighbors, so we’ve been able to keep seeing each other, even during the worst of the lockdown. The only difference this year is: Wala nang mano po.
My cousins and I on my mother’s side would always go out for holiday dinners, either before or after Christmas. When we were younger, we would usually do it so we could shop together. But now, since we’re all older and more occupied with our own individual lives, we’ve kept the tradition to just dinner.
Speaking of my mom’s family: My Tita Marinette is always the assigned cook in the family during special occasions. And because I am her favorite (why wouldn’t I be?), I am the official taste tester HAHA! Like most other Filipinos, food is never something that goes missing during the holidays.
Did you know that the employees of Rustan’s department store at EDSA Shangri-La have an annual Christmas tree display. My mom and I would always make it a point to drop by and look at the different designs – a kind of mother-daughter Christmas bonding tradition. It’s always so nice to see how they decorate the trees and all four floors of the department store.
Then, as of two years ago, I started sharing my “Bianca’s Christmas” Spotify playlist, which I update every single year. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I love Christmas! I even helped make the ScenePH Christmas playlist this year. A dream come true!
As someone who is very fueled by family traditions and practices, I can’t help but be a little bit sad that I won’t be able to celebrate the holiday season with all my relatives, most especially my cousins. I do my best to distract myself by binging on Christmas specials, planning Christmas Zoom parties, and of course, annoying my cousins via chat. Things are definitely different, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have a little Christmas in my heart (Get it?).
We know that keeping the spirit alive is easier said than done, but we hope that regardless of what 2020 has been like for you and your family, you find some way to enjoy the season, whether it be in your usual traditional way of celebrating or in a new, perhaps more innovative, celebration.
Happy Holidays to you, our dear readers. And thank you for being with us this season and hopefully for many more seasons to come.