Our Family’s Christmas Story

My family had always welcomed Christmas with much merriment.  I remember the week long preparation of marketing and cooking.   My grandmother Natividad Manalac Caraos had made sure her children and grandchildren, her sister Conching and her brood, converge in her humble home along Ivory Street and gather for an annual celebration of the Lord Jesus’ birth.  Lola Naty would have her roasted rice and minced peanuts for her kare-kare ready by Christmas eve. The salad comes in three forms: the traditional fruit salad with buko or coconut flesh, chicken macaroni in mayonnaise, and my favorite diced potato with carrots in mayo.  But of course the festive table includes much more than that.  We have rellenong bangus, arroz valenciana, embotido, morcon, diniguan at puto,  soup, pancit bijon, spaghetti, ham, queso de bola, ube, leche flan, apples, bananas, watermelon and cantaloupes.    Then, on command, the children sing and dance.  Prizes come in the form of crisp, clean bills. The parlor games and the exchange gifts drew the fun and the laughter just before the adults subside into their kwentuhan in chavacano.  Just when everybody was about to feel tiredness, then Lola Naty would shower the whole sala with her peso coins.  Young and old would dive the floor in frenzy.  And when the last coin had been retrieved, Lola Naty would require everyone to fall in a single file for her aguinaldo.  The amount usually depends upon the necessity of the recipient.  Those who need more blessings receive more.  Nobody questions that.  Everyone is just happy for all the bounty.

As it is, time has traveled fast.  Lola Naty is just a memory.  And so is Uncle Tony who provided much of the financial support.  Some families had also hopped into the other side of the world.  A new generation had grown up knowing just the names of their relatives.  Aunts and uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces are but mere images in photographs.  With Facebook on the internet though, the ties are currently being renewed.

This year, our family had our mini party at Cabalen’s eat-all-u-can. The treat is courtesy of my mom and dad in California.   My parents are very grateful to the Lord for blessing Tami and Tish  eighteen wonderful years.  So the two debutantes invited the family not just to a Christmas gathering but to their debuts as well.

The following are some snapshots taken at the megamall.  The quiet toddler on my lap is Julia.  She has slight fever.  The bubbly girl is Audrey who believes she is a grown-up like the legal ladies Jean, Tami and Tish.

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