“I introduced Christmas to my kids by watching Christmas movies with them, showing them who Santa Claus is, putting up Christmas décor. I ask them to help every time we put up the Christmas tree. I make sure it’s fun for them, I let them pick their favorite Christmas balls and let them hang anything they want on the tree. We have Christmas stockings, too, because they really believe in Santa Claus. We enjoy Noche Buena then open gifts and in the morning kailangan may laman na ang mga stockings, ha ha!” —Aubrey Miles
“Christmas was introduced to my kid at an early age. My son attended his first Christmas party when he was only a month old and participated in his first Christmas presentation the following year. We always have Christmas reunions with our families and we would always dress up and put on costumes for the themed events. He would also hand out the gifts to each family member because my wife and I have always imparted to him that the true relevance of Christmas is being with your loved ones and the spirit of giving and sharing.” —Errol Andrade
“With Xean, who is seven now, it just happened. With the festive air all around her, she knows whenever Christmas is near. I think it was at the Noche Buena table (she was about three at that time) when she asked why we have a birthday cake with Jesus’ name on it. We told her the story of the first Christmas. Since then she’d ask bits and pieces like how Santa Claus came into the picture, how Santa in that red suit can bear the summer heat in Australia, etc. The questions became a challenge year after year. I suppose, it will be the same case with Xam. Our best Christmases are spent with friends and family in the Philippines. Nothing beats the noise, the traffic jam and the food. We cook all day, eat all day, play games, hand out and open presents and give lots of hugs.
“Christmas in Australia is more quiet. On Christmas eve, Erick cooks his ‘best dish of the year.’ I prepare my version of the Christmas leg of ham, we buy Jesus’ birthday cake—that’s until we find the perfect cake recipe. And with just the four of us, we try to get out of the house to spend Christmas day at the beach or at the park. We don’t have to set up a humongous tree, but we have to take the Nativity set out. Since the parents were busy with all sorts of things, Xean had to write the Christmas cards this year. Xam can help later when she learns how to use the pen on paper (and not on walls). As we wait for the clock to strike midnight, we will huddle up in front of the telly to watch ‘The Sound of Music.’ Sometimes, I feel the girls would rather watch Mickey’s ‘Once Upon A Christmas,’ but that’s sort of my Christmas tradition, so they sit and bear then later ask if they can play another DVD. Noche Buena with Jesus’ birthday cake is the highlight. We sing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song, blow the candles and open presents.” —Xuchele Mayrix Alejo Dogma
“Our daughter, Chloe, will turn two in February. We do the usual stuff for Christmas. We bring her along when we go shopping for presents and food for Noche Buena. We just let her watch as we wrap presents and put décor around the house and let her do whatever she wants so she’ll feel that she’s a part of the whole celebration. She’ll get 12 presents from us this year. We don’t buy her expensive stuff though. Just cheap things we know she’ll enjoy like books because we don’t want her to grow up thinking that Christmas is the day she’ll be able to get everything she wants. We buy her beautiful clothes and shoes but we try not to go overboard with the toys. It’s a challenge for me not to spoil her this early. I just want her to enjoy Christmas the way I did when I was a kid. Things were simple then. I know kids ask for expensive gadgets nowadays. We usually go out of town after having Noche Buena in the house. Christmas is extra special because our cousins spend it with us. We prepare a lot of food. We normally make a list of the dishes we want prepared for Noche Buena a month ahead. Honestly, I look forward to the food more than presents since I was a kid. Chloe will probably grow up that way, too. Another thing, our family’s not big on Santa Claus. In fact, I never believed in Santa. My parents never told me that I had to be good so he’d bring me the presents I wanted on Christmas Eve. It was more of Jesus’ birth. Until now we don’t have Santa décor in the house because when I was in kindergarten, my teacher told me we should focus on Jesus and not Santa Claus. It just grew on me and so I told my parents that we don’t need Santa décor. I find Santa cute and I know it’s fun for kids to imagine him sneaking in the middle of the night to leave presents for them, but I want Chloe to focus more on the real reason why we celebrate Christmas.” —Pearl Cervantes
“I introduce Christmas to my son by letting him help me put up the Christmas decorations, decorate the tree and assist me with wrapping gifts. During Christmas eve, we always go to church in the evening, then each family member helps prepare food for Noche Buena. Nicolo always enjoys helping me bake Christmas treats. We open gifts after midnight but while waiting for midnight to arrive, we team up and play parlor games. Last year we played Pinoy Henyo and had a lot of fun. We also camwhore a lot. We love how everyone is so game making goofy photos. Christmas is always a fun and intimate celebration in our family.” —Cielo Frontreras
“I introduced Christmas to Chloe by telling her about Jesus and how he was born in Bethlehem to Mary and Joseph. Then I slowly incorporated Christmas tree, Santa Claus and a short explanation about gift-giving in the mix. We celebrate Christmas by going to church and having the usual Noche Buena. Christmas Day is mostly just about relaxing and reminiscing and eating leftovers in the morning and watching football on TV.” —Angela Aveo Noriega
“On top of cultivating in them the religious essence of the celebration of Jesus’ birth, my husband Noel and I (and my mother Susan Joven, most especially) allow and indulge Noey, who’s eight, and Chloe, who is four, the magic and fantasy of the season. They’re children. Sooner than later, they’ll realize Santa Claus isn’t real. Reindeers don’t talk. Mystical fairies don’t exist. Snow is dirty. Christmas lights are potential fire hazards. They’ll have a lot of time for that. But they won’t have that beautiful sense of wonder, bewilderment and innocence for long. So we let them enjoy the enchantment and charm of Christmas. But we also don’t overdo it. We don’t want them to grow up with a sense of entitlement or be spoiled without realizing the season’s more profound meaning. Each year, they have to part with some of their books, toys and clothes. Initially, of course, they resisted. And they questioned with a heavy heart why they had to let go of their material possessions. But upon seeing the living conditions of children they share to, we didn’t have to explain further. Their eyes told their hearts the right thing to do. They also know they won’t receive presents from us, their parents. And instead, our gifts to them along with our gifts to friends are in the form of a humble donation to the Kidney Foundation of the Philippines. Their grandfather passed away after a long battle with renal failure. When it comes to family Christmas traditions, there are only two simple musts. We must attend Christmas Mass. And the family must be complete during the holidays. It doesn’t matter which church in the world. And it doesn’t matter if Noche Buena is a feast or a takeout bag from In-N-Out. Those two are sacred. And none of us have broken it. Well, except for dad. But he’s in heaven now.” —Ginggay de la Merced
“When my son was old enough to be aware of how different the end of the year was with all the excitement and gifts, of course I entertained him with the story of Jesus’ birth, but more than this, I simply explained to him that Christmas is a way of thanking love and life by showing people gratitude. I even told him it should be Christmas every day! We celebrate Christmas with family. Being a single mother, we both join my parents, siblings and his cousins during Christmas Eve, playing dance music as early as 5 p.m., and we would dance with the children, especially me, since I am the most playful adult. At 6 p.m. I would join my aunt and sisters in the kitchen cooking and exchanging repartee. At night, we put the kids to bed for a long nap while some of us would go to Mass. More than Christmas Day, Christmas Eve is the highlight of our holidays. The most fun part would be watching the children’s faces light up when they open their gifts to Christmas carols. There would be hot cocoa. Well, we try to complete the simbang gabi. Personally, I do so because I feel the warmth of people against the chill of the early morning. My son loves it because afterward we would buy bibingka and puto bumbong. Not that we are not good Christians. I simply brought my son up in the belief that traditions are important because they are ways to remember lessons passed down about love and good cheer, and that they are good reasons to remember how important people are to everyone. Religion can be learned, but values and happiness cannot be forgotten. One other thing we celebrate as a tradition is to help each other (siblings, cousins) assemble Christmas trees and décor while singing carols. This makes us and the kids feel that we are part of everybody’s life, and that we are together always.” —Angelina Kanapi
“Christmas for us is normally kicked off when the Halloween costumes go back in storage on Nov. 1. We take all our Christmas décor out, dust them and through the month quietly set them up. By Dec. 1, the tree is up with trimmings and the children all pitch in with the decorating activity. It is during this preparation period that the kids start writing Santa their wish list. We ask them two things: limit it to their top 10 and write legibly! It’s amusing to see them try to exercise restraint and practice their penmanship, as well. We then stick the lists in their respective Christmas stockings for Santa (and mommy/daddy and lola/lolo) to read. It’s all about family this season and we normally have Noche Buena together on Christmas Eve with my folks. By about 11:30 p.m., we ask the kids to leave cookies, milk and a note for Santa, and we semi-force them to sleep. After they fall asleep, my wife and I would sneak out, gulp down the milk, and gobble up the cookies. We leave a thank-you note and stick ‘Santa’s’ gifts under the tree. On Christmas morning, the kids go nuts opening presents and (so far) they get a thrill from getting a note from Santa. We then proceed to lunch at my in-laws where more presents await the children.” —Mon Guinto
“My family is big on reunions and family-cooked meals. Even if my dad and mom already passed away and my siblings now have their own families, we continued this tradition. Everyone cooks a meal and shares it in the Christmas lunch table. Louise enjoys this, ever since she was three she helps me cook our share. We usually all go to hear Mass then go straight to our home-cooked Christmas lunch. Then the traditional gift-giving follows.” —Odette Velarde
“Aside from having told my children about the Christmas story and the day being Jesus’ birthday, it’s also the season to be extra nice because Santa won’t be visiting them if they are naughty or bad. We usually start the season by putting up Christmas décors all over the house. During Christmas Eve, the whole family attends Mass together. Afterward, we have the traditional Noche Buena at 12 midnight, then the most awaited part of Christmas would be the opening of gifts. After all the presents have been opened, the children will eagerly go to sleep ‘because Santa might be near the area already and he won’t drop by if he sees that they are still wide awake.’ First thing they see when they wake up would be ‘Santa’s’ wonderful presents.” —Hazel de la Cruz
“When the boys were little, I never told them about Santa leaving gifts. Gifts were all under the Christmas tree and as they arrived one by one, I would tell them who gave them. The gifts were to be opened on Christmas Eve, after our Noche Buena. Christmas tree décor were handmade by me, one theme for each year. Of course, it eventually stopped when I got busy and the boys were all grown. Now that they’re young men, we eat out, toast some drinks and still open the gifts at midnight.” —Ruby Gan
“In typical Pinoy spirit, I got ready for Christmas before December and right on Thanksgiving Day this year (Nov. 24?). Jay and I wanted to see Lucas’ eyes light up so we put up and decorated our tree with him when he woke up in the morning and started playing Christmas cartoons, music, etc. Now he can identify Santa on his special Christmas pajamas (he has a few) and jingles his musical bells (instruments) when we sing ‘Jingle Bells.’ Although Lucas is too young yet to appreciate the religious aspects of the season, he has definitely caught the Christmas spirit of spreading joy and cheer to those around him. Lucky us!” —Cathy Paras Lara
“My husband Anthony and I introduced Anya to Christmas as young as four months old, playing Christmas carols on her boombox, putting up Christmas décors and bringing her to places with Christmas themes. Anya’s such a smart girl, as she begins to talk, she’s the one who asks questions about Christmas, like this dinner, she is asking why is baby Jesus inside mama Mary’s tummy. I just told her na it’s God’s plan, in which she questions back with a why again!
“Christmas is usually celebrated with my in-laws (New Year is with my parents), starting in the morning of the 24th in which we prepare and cook our favorite foods for Noche Buena, then on Christmas Day itself, we just go to church as a family and eat out. But this year, since my mom booked rooms in H2O Hotel, we will probably just visit first my in-laws before celebrating Christmas in the hotel with my parents. For the traditions, we are just the typical Pinoy family who makes the Noche Buena a big deal and a big meal, who sees to it that every family member, inaanak and friends will be given gifts, who puts up Christmas décor and for my Anya, a purple Christmas tree and lantern and scouts the town with Christmas foods such as bibingka and puto bumbong plus my favorite, castañas. And, of course, goes to Mass on the day itself.” —Abi Villamejor Mejia
“I let Amber help me in decorating the house come Dec. 1. We sort out old clothes and toys and give to charity. We shop for gifts and wrap them together. We take her to Greenhills for the yearly robotic presentation (just like COD when we were kids). On Dec. 24, we have Noche Buena at home after hearing Mass, and on the 25th, we go to Bulacan. The elders give aguinaldos to kids so they fall in line. Christmas is all about giving, loving, kindness and sharing.” —Tammy Flores
“Christmas means going to Manila to be with family and friends. We spend Christmas Eve at my husband’s family’s Mahogany Farm in Pampanga. We get to have a one-of-a-kind Noche Buena, which is set up under a canopy of mahogany trees! We then spend Christmas Day with my side of the family for the annual reunion. It’s a great way for my kids to learn the importance of family, of sharing and gift-giving.” —Joey Mirasol-Panlilio
“My eldest is only two years old and my youngest is just three months old. I would introduce Christmas to them as a special day of caring and giving to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
“Our Christmas tradition is that we start celebrating by attending the Misa de Gallo and then share Noche Buena after. We celebrate Christmas Eve with my in-laws while Christmas Day with my family in Batangas—because Christmas is not only for children but for lolos and lolas as well who love to be with their grandchildren, especially during Christmas.” —Alvin Maranan