We celebrated the last night of Hanukkah last night and are eagerly awaiting Christmas. Christmas is a huge deal for Filipinos and actually Christmas Eve was our big night to celebrate vs Christmas Day. I grew up with so many fond memories of a huge Christmas Eve party (Noche Buena) with all my aunts, uncles, and cousins. Going to church then partying back at a relative’s house. There was always dancing, plenty of food, and possibly some karaoke. Then we would open our Christmas presents once it was midnight. I miss those huge celebrations and family gatherings but now that I have my own children we get to create our own family traditions. My husband and I have learned to weave in all the best things about our different cultures, faiths, childhood memories, along with fun new traditions.
Latkes & Lumpia
Celebrating involves food, lots of it. I’ve hosted a couple of Hanukkah dinners now. If you know me, you know I don’t cook. I leave that up to the experts and just pick up food from some of our favorite local places or rely on my dad or sister to cook. Latkes are part of our Hanukkah dinners and I read that traditional foods fried in oil are served to represent the holy oil in the temple. Luckily Filipinos are all about that fried goodness too. No Filipino party is complete without lumpias! If you haven’t had a lumpia yet, it is a thin eggroll usually filled with minced meat and veggies. When you are Filipino and your husband is Jewish, you get latkes and lumpia for the holiday dinner, along with brisket, pancit (Filipino noodle dish), matzo ball soup, and garlic rice. It’s quite the international spread.
Church & the Menorah
We don’t go to midnight mass anymore since that would be a disaster with kids but we do typically go to the Children’s mass on Christmas Eve with my parents. During the eight nights of Hanukkah we light the candles together as a family as my husband recites the blessings. Our daughter loves lighting the candles and likes to sing the blessings in her best attempt at Hebrew.
Santa and Presents
We take Santa pictures each year and with the exception of the first year, we have always seen the same Santa at the 900 North Michigan Shoppes. He’s the sweetest santa and it’s so fun to see the difference from year to year. My sister and I never really grew up believing in Santa Claus. I guess being Catholic we focused more on it being the birth of Jesus and I remember seeing old home videos with my sister and I singing happy birthday to Jesus with our tinsel covered tree in the background. Even now I don’t really think my daughter believes in the concept of Santa. I don’t wrap presents delivered from Santa. If she’s getting a good gift, she’s going to know it came from us. We like to do all the fun Santa activities because it’s festive.
We have our tree up usually before Thanksgiving and up until New Year’s Day so that we can enjoy our tree up as long as we can. Since our daughter goes to a school focused on world-mindedness and dual-language immersion, she learns about different holiday traditions. She has come home with a Star of David made out of popsicle sticks and has learned how to sing the Dreidel song in Japanese. She’s getting really good at spinning the dreidel and is a chocolate fiend with the gelt (chocolate coins). We also put up our Christmas parol, which is a star-shaped lantern typically made of capiz or bamboo. We hang our parol in our front window and if you’re ever in the Philippines you’ll see so many parols outside of everyone’s homes. The parol is meant to guide the Three Kings to the manger, just as the Star of Bethlehem did in the Nativity Story.
Our Ohana’s New Traditions
We recently watched Wicked and one of our traditions is to watch a Broadway musical or a ballet. We have been doing this since my little one was 1 year old, her first show was Elf the Musical. For the last two years, we’ve seen The Joffrey Ballet Nutcracker on Christmas Eve, but this year I don’t think baby boy can hang for a three hour ballet. I think the hubs is happy we are breaking that Christmas Eve tradition. We check out the Christmas lights at Lincoln Park’s Zoo Lights each year, go to the German Christmas market (Christkindlmarket) in the loop, decorate gingerbread houses and enjoy afternoon tea at one of the nearby hotels.
It’s so fun to come up with new family traditions that are our own and so nice to be able to weave in all the memories from my childhood. Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year and now my husband and I have found a way to incorporate the best of both worlds. My Christmases in the past were always spent in 75 degree weather in southern California, now living in Chicago the snow makes for the dreamy White Christmas I always imagined. The holiday season is all about love, family, food, and celebration. It’s even more magical now through the eyes of my two little ones.
From our ohana to yours, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Everything.
xoxo – The Prets