Christmas time is a time to reflect.
For the last 10 years or so, Martin and I have not been at home (Ottawa) for the holidays. We have always divided the occasion into 2 cities. Some years we go to Brampton (my family) and then we go to Quebec (Martin's family). It was always something we did. Tradition I guess you can call it. We both have big families and we didn't have any children at the time so it was easier for us to travel. However, in the last few years (as we are getting older in age ...hehehe), we have been telling ourselves "When we have kids, that's it...we are staying in Ottawa and family will have to come and visit us." Now that we know Olivia is in our lives...I'm thinking...will our Christmas holiday plans really change?
First of all, I want to say that CHRISTMAS is my most favourite holiday. I love the music, I love the decorations and lights, I love the happy greetings, everything. Okay..yes..the mall is a bit cuckcoo and driving around during the holidays can make you mental, and yes..the shopping has become too much. But even with that and it's whole commericalism part...I love Christmas. You wouldn't know it by looking at our house this year though. hahaha Since finding out about Olivia, there has been no time to go to the basement and dig up all my holiday decorations. The only thing we managed to do was put up our 12ft Christmas tree with white Christmas lights. There is a lonely silver snowflake up at the top of the tree from last year. sigh. As well, I did manage to find our stockings and put it over the mantle. It might not get filled, but at least it's up. (Next year, one more stocking in the middle) There has just been more important things to do with our free time this December. I think making up Olivia's room was more important. :0)
But in this blog I want to write to Olivia and tell her about how my Christmas' were with my family. Things I remember:
First of all, to put things in perspective...My family immigrated to Canada in the early 70's. Celebrating Christmas in a new country full of snow was enough to make new traditions. Can't roast the pig (lechon) in the fire pit outside! hahahah I have to say though, there has always been a balance of traditional filipino food and desserts (lechon, pancit, pancit molo etc., and my favourite conchinta) and canadian-style dishes (turkey, mashed potatoes, ham etc.). I loved it all! On my plate - turkey, ham, rice, mashed potatoes, and some pancit - but of course you start with soup). Growing up Christmas in our family was HUGE! Christmas in the Philippines meant big gatherings of family and friends. This was the same in Canada. In the beginning we didn't have a lot of family, just a small group in Brampton, but my Tita Letty would invite all the filipinos in Brampton if she could. It didn't matter. By the end, I called all of them aunts and uncles (tita and tito) and cousins. Every filipino we knew was some family relation. hahahha
I was the first Canadian-born in our family. All my cousins then were teenagers and I was the only baby. Not that I remember, but apparently it was a big deal, and I was spoiled. hehehe.
Then my older cousins started to have their own children, and soon by Christmas time, there were many children to spoil. Oh it was so much fun! We would start of by going to mass around 7:00 as a family, then head off to my Clarence (my aunt's home - we call it Clarence because it was on the Clarence street). Then slowly other families would arrive and we would start dinner. Kids running around, adults playing mahjong in the kitchen. It was pretty busy. Then around 11:45, my dad would start handing out these HUGE black garbage bags. They were HUGE. So imagine about 10 kids all sitting in this living room with huge garbage bags waiting for 12:00 to roll around so we could open and pass the gifts. Then..finally midnight! That meant we could open the gifts!!!!! It was insane! Paper flying all around, screams of joy, and hugs and thank you's! But we had to remember, no opening of the box until you said thank you. They had to be put bag in the plastic bag until everything was opened or else it would have gotten mixed up with someone else's toy. We had the system down pat. By 1:00 everything died down, we were anxious to get home so we could play with our toys. Also, there would be more presents under our own tree at home.
We would get home and open more presents. It's amazing how parents were so intuned with the toys that we really wanted. hahahha. I have to say my mom did well to provide us with all the latest toys. She must have talked to Santa! Santa and my parents were in touch with each other often, because I remember having this awesome playroom with toys galore. Now, I don't know how parents do it now with all those toys to choose from and then where to put them! ??I remember looking at my gifts in the morning...SANTA! Oh my gosh..he came! Then as I grew older, I would look at the print..hmmm...wow...Santa's printing looks like mom's printing. (was I destined to be a teacher or what..hahhaha). Then mom's printing turned into cursive. I don't remember exactly the moment when I knew Santa just told my mom what to get and put his name on it. ;0) He must have been really busy.
I was looking at some toy chests for Olivia, but people have said all her toys will be all over the place. sigh. OH well...I have clothes everywhere. hahahah
So finally, we would wake up really early in the morning to play with the them. It's funny, back then we would groan when we would get pajamas or slippers for Christmas. They were great, but it was as bad as getting clothes. Now, I squeal with glee when I get comfy pjs that I could lounge around in. hahhaha And socks...I love getting socks now. I would wear mine out for the year...get holes in them but too lazy (or cheap) to buy new ones. ;0) We didn't really do stockings until we were a bit older. We never had a fireplace to hang them until we moved to Gatesgill. By then though, me and Melissa would fill each other's stockings with goodies. LOL. Ferrero for me and shell chocolate for her. Traditions. I love Christmas.
On the 25th, we went to mass again in the morning. Then off to another relatives house for lunch. Then back home for a family dinner with other relatives coming. The 26th (Boxing day - when things were actually still closed), we would go to another relatives house to have lunch. It was all so yummy. Always the balance of canadian and filipino food. I remember a couple of days before Christmas, I would help my grandmother making these special candies (yemas) that used condensed milk and brown sugar. Then we would roll them and wrap it in these coloured cellophane papers. She was so patient in making them. I think I would like to try to make them with Olivia when she gets older. It took a long time to make and you needed to be patient, but my grandmother had it down pat.
I remember my parents would have work Christmas parties for kids. They would invite all the employee's kids to a Christmas party. There would be games, sing a longs, and toys for each child. You got to sit on Santa's lap and get more treats. There was always a raffle too. I don't know why, but there were a couple of years in a row that I would win! I won these HUGE stuff animals. I got a huge COOKIE MONSTER and dinosaur. It was crazy! But I loved going to these parties. Now, I haven't' heard of children's Christmas parties at work. Economy? Political correctness? It's too bad because these are very fond memories from my childhood.
So here I am in the kitchen, getting ready to make my trek down to Brampton for Christmas. I'm thinking about what traditions I would like to start or continue with Olivia. I know Martin and I have complained about always driving around on the holidays, but in the end it's all worth it. If I can give Olivia a bit of what I experienced as a child, I would gladly drive every year to see family. It's not about US (Martin and I) anymore, it's about giving Olivia wonderful experiences and lasting memories with family and friends. Especially now that there are so many cousins. The bottom line is, in Ottawa yes we have some family and friends and it will be important to establish some traditions here. I love living in Ottawa, and I can't think of a better place to raise our children. But, family is where home is - if it's in Brampton or St. Sauveur.
I think Christmas has become even more important to me as I get older because, it's the only time that I'm not rushing to see everyone. I can sit and share a moment with my parents and sister. I get to spend some time with family and friends that I so miss and love. I think I can say this for Martin as well, family is so important to us. Family is such an important value that we share. That is what I want to share with Olivia - the gift of precious time with family.
So to answer my question in the beginning - Will things change when Olivia is here? Sure, we might have to have to celebrate our Christmas' a different way. There will be more planning involved and coordinating times. But...will we stop travelling? NOPE. Time with family, that's all that matters. I can't wait till next Christmas.