By Dette de la Fuente – Aruego

For as long as I can remember, I had always spent Christmas Eve in my parents’ house with the clan – together with my mom’s cousins and my second cousins. We would start off the evening with a mass to celebrate Christ’s birth. Family dinner would not be complete without pamplina, ham and relleno, with castanas and queso de bola for pica-pica. Then about an hour before midnight, our relatives would leave family by family to spend Noche Buena in their own homes or with the “other side” of their families. This would now be our special time to have a more intimate celebration with my immediate family as we exchanged gifts while the younger kids itched to get home to receive Santa’s presents.

This tradition slightly changed when I got married. As Christmas is about love, family and generosity, part of it is compromising and making both sides of the family happy. Our Christmas Eve is now spent with dinner with my in-laws, hearing mass in the village after dinner, then heading off to my parents to catch whoever else is left behind and have our traditional pamplina as we wait for 12 midnight to welcome Christ’s birth. With the pandemic, fortunately, some parts of the tradition have held through as we continued to hear mass and celebrate with the family through zoom, and still had our share of our favorite pamplina in our own homes. With Christmas 2022 drawing nearer, I am hopeful that we will now be able to celebrate the season physically with our families.

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