By Ana de Villa Singson

De Villa Christmas Dinner, 2021. Every year, after going through the "door" and Noche Buena on Christmas Eve, we would all meet up for a formal dinner on the 25th.

Christmas is always a wondrous time for me.  Most memorable were times when I would write Santa, even preparing cookies for him and setting out cough syrup since I was worried that he would catch a cold in the North Pole.  I loved opening gifts.  My favorites as a little girl were a gold leaf encrusted storybook of Disney tales, a set of scented colored pentel pens, a bicycle, a walking, talking, blinking doll.  I loved mom’s paella , cooked always in her huge aluminum Dutch oven, and thick hot Spanish chocolate with  panaderia pan de sal that are still staples in every  de Villa Noche Buena.  Sometimes, mom would bake her extra special, extra yummy Mexican Chocolate Cake, 3 layers of rich chocolate cake   slathered with thick choco-coffee buttercream!  But of all the Christmas highlights, what I most anticipated and what we all do to this day is what I call  “ THE DOOR.”

Christmas 2011. Every year, we come out of "the door" from eldest to youngest. This was in the New Manila home we grew up in.
Christmas 2021: The De Villa Siblings, coming through the door. My kids are towering over me already!

Right before the stroke of Christmas midnight, we would all gather in front of the wooden carved door that separated our rooms in our home in New Manila from the living room and entertainment area.  Nowadays, we gather in front of the main entrance door of dad and mom’s Southern home. One by one, dad and mom, then each of us from eldest to youngest would open that door to be greeted by cheers and waves from family members on the other side.  We would smile our best for commemorative photos right in front of “THE DOOR”.  There is that moment of anticipation before the door is opened.  That aha eureka moment when you open the door to see loving faces smiling and clapping and waving and cheering…faces of those who love you the most and those whom you love the most in the world.  Later on, as we grew up, we would no longer be alone when we opened that door.  Husbands, children, pets joined us as our family grew in number.  It was always cheerful as we would strike different poses when we entered.  Dad and mom would wave and share a kiss, Maricor would do a few dance steps with her dog. Ginny would smile shyly , looking incredibly like her beatific childhood doll “Piko”.  She now enters that door with her Vada and Jopee and Ting with his wife Cristina and their precocious, adorable Ava.  Ria would always be laughing, while Ramon would urge Cito and Sophie in Ilonggo. I now enter that door with my darling Noel and Manuel and Gaby who both tower over me. Each time I try to organize them for a lovely family portrait but each time they just do their own thing.  Vitri always enters with a huge belly shout, followed by demure Jill and Tara.  Vitri always amuses us because he tries so very hard to have candid shots that always look “very posed” nonetheless. And Martin, our family baby, whom we used to dress in diapers and drape with a sash that said New Year Baby, is now all grown up with kids of his own.  The family photographer, he leaves the camera setup after taking all our photos, to enter the door with Peggy and their Betita and Javo.

2008-2011, Dad and Mom coming out of the door!

Mom and Dad never told us the history nor the meaning of “THE DOOR.” But through the
years, the relevance became clear to me. “THE DOOR” chronicles our lives as it unfolds. The passing years are etched in each Christmas photo in front of “THE DOOR.” And while we ourselves changed, something remained constant and true. “The Door” would always open to the love and joy of family welcoming us with open arms and singing happy hearts. Regardless of the year’s ups and downs, “the door” stood for family that was always on the other side, waiting with excitement to cheer us on. Many other doors would open and shut in our lives, but that door would always welcome us with love, promising warmth, comfort, unremitting loyalty, unquestioning faith that no matter what we did, wherever we went, there would always be love and home behind “THE DOOR.”

Christmas in our New Manila home!

I love this tradition. It is a happy, noisy family affair.  I hope very much that my Manuel and Gaby keep this tradition when they have their own homes.  Along with “THE DOOR”, I have added the Singson tradition of toasting the New Year with champagne flutes filled with 12 grapes which we drink down at the very stroke of midnight and which we must finish to the last drop and the last grape before the midnight minute is done.  Each grape, laced with champagne, is a toast to each of the 12 months of the new year…may each one be filled with champagne moments to toast in celebration!

(L) Dad and Mom in 2021 in their new home in the South, excitedly posing in front of the door after 1 year of not seeing us because of the pandemic. (Upper R) My sisters and I waiting for our turn to be called before opening and entering the door. (Lower R) Me and Mom right after Noche Buena 2019. Mom was 81 then, but still so so radiant and gorgeous!

Traditions…they define us.  They allow us to conform to something that stays true in a world where nothing stays the same.  They make us feel safe in knowing that while everything is in flux, traditions and what they stand for withstand the test of time and the unpredictability of human frailty.  I know the constancy of love and family and home because of “THE DOOR.”  It will always open for anyone in our family and it will always, always…no matter what we do…welcome us with pomp and fanfare and love.  From our family to yours…may the door to love and family be always open for you!

A Blessed Christmas and a Healthy, Peaceful 2023 to all!

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