The Christmas Seasons of Childhood

I’m not sure if it’s just me, but the Christmases of recent years just feel different…  WHERE IS THE SPIRIT???  I’m not sure if it’s just my “advancing” age, along with all the various responsibilities, persistent worries, and endless problems that make me feel this way.  All I’m sure is that Christmas was much more wondrous, joyous, and fun when I was a child in the early 1970s, considering that those were not even wonderful years — rather dark, in fact — in our country’s history.

When I was a child, there was the rustle of the elders and the household staff in the dark of night — although the roosters were already crowing — as they dressed to attend the 4:00 a.m. “Misa de Gallo” at the parish church.  We children were not really taken along since we would just be irritable and sleep throughout the mass.  After the mass ended at 5:00 a.m., there was no going back to sleep as the day had begun.  Breakfast was prepared and afterwards everybody set out with their tasks for the day.

During the times I was taken along to the “Misa de Gallo,” I was fascinated with the “belen” [ Christmas creche ] near the altar and the occasional crepe paper “parol” [ “farol” / lantern ] hanging nearby.  The figures of the “belen” were big although not lifesize, and there were animals and real hay [ absolutely thrilling for a child ]!  There was an ox, a donkey, a camel, goats, and several sheep.  After the mass, there was a long line to kiss the image of the cute Baby Jesus in the “belen,” and Little Me, blissfully unaware of bacteria and viruses and infections, gave Baby Jesus’ stomach a big smack of the lips.  In those days, there was no fear — indeed no knowledge — of H1N1 or bird flu;  there was only good ol’ TB tuberculosis, which was chicken feed by Philippine standards, and which everyone had been exposed to one way or the other!  😛

During the nine days of the “Misa de Gallo,” the patio of the parish church turned into a veritable market with vendors selling all sorts of things.  Of course, Little Me and my younger brother and sister always wanted the multicolored sweet popcorn .10 centavos per pack [ which my mother thought was not clean enough and refused to buy for us ] and the color-splashed balloons .25 centavos each.  The elders went for the “bibingka,” the “puto bumbong,” and the “suman” rice cakes, although they always complained that the ones made at home were better.  All the sights, sounds, and smells during those chilly December mornings became the Christmas memories I have carried with me all my life.

Back in Lola Charing’s house, the Tampingco-style round dining table, the magnificent bone-inlaid sideboard, the JAO nests of tables, the Puyat library table, the cabinets, and most of the antique tables around were teeming with white boxes upon boxes of large “ensaimadas,” “tocino del cielo,” fruit cake,” “food for the gods,” and other Old Sulipan goodies on top of cans and trays with water [ to prevent the ants climbing up😛 ] which Ate Talia Padilla [ daughter of the legendary Juan Padilla, chef of the 1898 Malolos Congress ], Lola’s “mayordoma” and resident patissier, had been churning out by the hundreds the last few days to be sent to Lola Charing’s relatives and friends around the city — various Gonzalezes and Arnedos;  various Lopezes, Cojuangcos, Madrigals, et. al..  We grandkiddies only had to ask Ate Talia for any of those sugary goodies in the kitchen as she had lots of them there.  Thus the Gonzalez diabetics of the future were bred.

Back in those days when I did not have to think of the employees’ Christmas bonuses, 13th month salaries, personal cash gifts, Christmas gifts to VIPs all the way to friends’ pet dogs, yearend debt settlements, etc., etc..  All I had to think of was what new toy I wished for Christmas from “Santa Claus,” who never showed up in person.

I thnk my first “loss of innocence” was when I was told at the age of seven, I forget by whom, that Santa Claus didn’t exist, that he was just some fairy tale.  You see, we children, courtesy of our “yayas” from the provinces, lived in an insulated, magical world where everything existed:  angels, demons, vampires, “aswang,” “manananggal,” “kapre,” “tikbalang,” “duwende,” “asong pascual” [ in Pampanga ], and Godknowswhatelse, etc..

*unfinished*

11 Comments

  1. Paz Atienza said,

    December 25, 2009 at 7:58 am

    Thanks Presy. May you, Toto and the rest of us who enjoy this blog have a MERRY CHRISTMAS!

  2. December 24, 2009 at 8:40 am

    Myles:

    “go stick it where the sun don’t shine…:-) ) ”

    You go, boy!!!

    Hahahah!!!

    Cheers!!!

    Toto Gonzalez 🙂

  3. Myles Garcia said,

    December 23, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    OK, I’ll say it. I won’t be politically correct. MERRY CHRISTMAS (it is after all a Christian holiday…and the other religions/cults can stay on the program or go stick it where the sun don’t shine…:-) )

    And a Brighter, Better, more Blessed 2010 to all the faithful followers, readers, lurkers, posters, etc., of Toto’s exotic blog.

  4. Presy Guevara said,

    December 21, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    I echo Jules B.V.de D on his holiday greetings. Not to be forgetten are Paz, Isla, Irames and the many contributors that brightened this Blog beyond Toto’s expectations. Toto, thanks again for giving us a wonderful site. Let us all CELEBRATE!

  5. Jules B. Vergel de Dios said,

    December 20, 2009 at 2:32 am

    H A P P Y
    H O L i D A Y S
    everyone!

    Toto

    Presy
    Larry
    Enrique

    Anthony
    Anton

    Issima
    Zippo
    Talagang Tsismoso
    Garganta I.

    Jules [you made such a great job this year!]

    above all,
    JESUS…[THANK YOU!] for the beautiful life!

    xOxO

  6. Jules B. Vergel de Dios said,

    December 20, 2009 at 2:28 am

    My mum said: “Christmas is for Kids,
    Christmas for Adults is the Easter.”
    Do we have blues just because of
    Commercialism?

    Let Christmas be everyday –
    My goal on a Daily Basis is:
    To make at least one person happy,
    may that be someone you know or not.

    Yesteryears ago,
    I shop all-year-round, most especially,
    for hoarding of Holiday Presents –
    but, what if the time comes when I can no longer give?

    Lately, a Christmas Party or two
    would be enough.
    Not all about growing old nor getting bored,
    rather, it’s Listening to the dictates of my Heart in Silence.

    xOxO

  7. Paz Atienza said,

    December 18, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Somehow, the spirit is fading away. Sad…. Really sad….

  8. Anton Sy said,

    December 18, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    I also miss the wonderment of Christmas. It was always such a joyous time when I was growing up in Binondo with all the hamon and queso de bola one can gorge on! Nowadays, it seems to me even the children don’t feel this sense of awe and wonder. I guess the modern world has made even children lose their innocence much too early.

  9. larry leviste said,

    December 18, 2009 at 7:43 am

    My fondest Christmases were cool winds for December that allowed us for a brief season to dress in jackets, especially in my grandmother’s home in Baguio at the foot of Lourdes Mountain that had those endless steps.

    Music was sweet and nostalgic, worries for a child was if or not we would get our loot for the feast of Christ’s birth. We were all young once and when the peso was strong, so would our spirits be.

    Please peruse the BBC documentaries on You Tube, The Happy Machines, The Engineering of Consent and There’s a Policeman in my Head. These video show how for the last 100 years we have been ruled by PR and politics.

    The magical Christmas we once knew is but a perfumed memory.

  10. December 18, 2009 at 5:13 am

    You are not alone, Toto. I always get the Christmas blues lately. Maybe am becoming Scrooge.

  11. Presy Guevara said,

    December 17, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    But of course you are not alone in your assessment of modern day Christmases, Toto. Commercialism has changed the meaning of Christmas. Political correctness is even destroying it.


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