The joy of Christmas

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NO OTHER country like the Philippines celebrates Christmas like we do. The month of December is a festive month with our Christmas celebration the longest ever in the world. The Misa de Gallo or the nine-day Novena Masses (Simbang Gabi) at the crack of dawn marks the start of the Blessed Season. And with the dawn masses, the traditional Filipino delicacies of Puto Bumbong and Bibingka served with one’s choice of salabat (ginger brew) or chocolate E sold in stalls in the church periphery, add to the excitement of the Misa de Gallo. This is one of many beautiful childhood memories that are

carried on albeit with a commercial touch. Several five-star hotels have adapted the Misa de Gallo and offer the same Filipino delicacies in native stalls set in their lobbies. But more than the rush of people buying gifts, children singing Christmas carols in the streets, with the Filipino icon of Christmas, the “Parol” decorating houses and streets, Christmas draws out happy smiles from one of the happiest people on earth as families gather to celebrate.

The wedding of my son, Jason, on December 30, has brought the family together for the celebration of Christmas. It has been too long since we were together as a family on this blessed occasion. My daughter Patricia with her children, Silvian and Sabrina made the long haul trip from New York while Stephanie and her daughter, Sophie have been busy with the seemingly endless task of sprucing up their chic condo in Salcedo Village in Makati, in preparation for their arrival two weeks ago. And then there is the enormous task of preparing their favorite Christmas food for the Noche Buena or Christmas Eve Repast. My

classic Rellenong Manok (Roast Stuffed Chicken) and Chicken Galantina are at the top of our menu. Sophie will assist me in baking Christmas cookies,

cupcakes and food for the gods.

To keep the feel of the yuletide excitement, the kids are made a part of the preparation. Sophie, who turns 11 in two weeks, is showing great interest in baking. In fact, instead of buying gifts for her classmates in Singapore School Manila, she baked sugar cookies and packed them in fancy plastic containers. So last Sunday afternoon,

Sophie, with cousins Silvian and Sabrina as assistants assembled a Gingerbread House with a little help from Patricia. Watching them having so much fun putting the house together and decorating it with assorted candies can warm anyone’s heart.

Silvian handled the cake decorator with dexterity. Little Sabrina had a blast sticking the candies on the roof and walls of the gingerbread house and eating what was left. With their peals of laughter and the aroma of cinnamon, ginger and allspice, Christmas is truly around the corner.

I couldn’t help being reminded of how the

gingerbread house became a symbol of Christmas during my Cebu Plaza Hotel days. A life-sized

gingerbread house dominated the lobby then that was filled with Christmas cakes, pastries and goodies. And miniature versions were prepared as our Christmas gift to the

Cebu media. Several

hotels now have followed the gingerbread house tradition.

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