On this day, I remember my Christmas pasts…
1. 1981 – I was 5 years old and we just moved in to a new city. Everything looked bright and different. I remember being so happy after given miniature dolls by my parents. I also remember the big fight I had with my younger brother (3 years old) on Christmas morning. How could he be so interested in my dolls!?
2. 1982 – my first Christmas party at school. I loved the games we played. Couldn’t forget how my pregnant teacher devoured all the cookies, though.
3. 1987 – My father came home drunk on Christmas. Wait, don’t judge him just yet! We just moved in to our own house and we were waiting for him to come home from his Christmas party at the office. He almost never drinks alcohol, the reason why he got drunk easily with a small shot of brandy/whiskey/whatev.
It was our first time to see him drunk and very weak to celebrate Christmas with us. I/we never hated him for coming like that on Christmas Eve, I guess we were all just sad to see him down and out.
It never happened again.
4. 1989 – We lived side by side with Baptist neighbors. After their endless invitation to watch their Christmas show, my father finally agreed to let me and my 2 brothers go to their church and see it. The show finished at 11:30 pm and I asked them to take us home so we can celebrate Christmas at home with our parents. They said yes and we got in their car. It was 10 minutes before 12 midnight when we arrived in the neighborhood and before I knew it, they dragged us inside their home.
I did not know what else to do, we went inside their house and I don’t know what came in their minds when they decided to let go of their huge dogs outside after that. Their robotic maids started to tell us to sit down, put napkins in our laps so the hosts can start the Christmas dinner!! Hey, this is not our house! My parents do not have a single idea where we are at that time. No cellphones! My two brothers were crying and I felt like wanting to too.
How can we escape with all the dogs on the loose outside? How can we get past the gate?
In short, we spent Christmas with a family not our own and this is big deal for me. I almost couldn’t forgive myself and what my young brothers went through. Sure we had better food and shinier utensils but nothing beats Christmas with my own family.
5. 1995 – My first Christmas away from my family. I and three other friends were representing our school in a journalism conference in Baguio (northern part of the Philippines). Situated about a thousand meters above sea level, Baguio was so cold in December, it almost didn’t feel like it was in the tropics. I think this trip made me want to live somewhere where there is winter.
6. 1996 – My wish to live somewhere where there is winter and snow for that full Christmas effect in my childish imagination came true. I came to Japan in October 1996.
On Christmas eve, all the foreign students in my university were taken to tour the old city of Kyoto and Nara. It was my first time to be on a bullet train in Japan and I had the time of my life! All of us stayed in a hotel in Kyoto, one room for each of us (were were 10 scholars from Asia). This is probably the MOST memorable Christmas I had so pardon me for being so wordy about this.
I was used to staying awake until 12 midnight on Christmas eve to welcome Christmas. I expected fireworks, merry making and lots and lots of noise. After all, this was Japan, they can make the grandest fireworks and the loudest machines, can’t they?
What happened was surreal. I was looking out the window and my clock. Clock-window-clock-window. It was 5 minutes before 12 midnight but still no sign of any movement in the streets of Kyoto except for a few running cars and couples hand in hand. 3 minutes before, 2 minutes…nothing happened!! Snow began to fall as the tears in my eyes. I couldn’t believe they don’t have anything festive in Japan!
Where were the people? Too cold to go out? Too sleepy to stay around and celebrate? Why no one bothered to tell me this before? Needless to say, I was devastated. I was young at 20, in a foreign land, used to being with my loud, merry family in times like Christmas. Being alone was too much.
7. 2000 – My supposed to be last Christmas as a student in the university in Japan. My friends planned to go skiing and spend Christmas in a log cabin in the mountains but I saved my money to buy tickets to fly to the Philippines to celebrate Christmas with my family.
8. 2001 – My first Christmas after graduation! M and I spent a lovely Christmas in an English village atop hills overlooking the frozen Suwa Lake in Nagano.
9. 2003 – I spent my first Christmas as a mom – ALONE, in a hospital room. I gave birth on the 23rd of December and in Japan, one has to stay in the hospital for seven days after normal delivery (14 days for C-section). The lights were off and I can only hear the sound of babies crying in the nursery near my room.
10. 2004 – M underwent CT and MRI scan a few days before Christmas because of a severe headache that left him almost unconcious. Yeah, too much working in Japan can do that to you!
I have never prayed so hard in my entire life especially when he said, whatever happens, I should remarry and get on with my life!
The scan results were released a day before Christmas and it revealed nothing suspicious. We celebrated our Christmas a little more thankful that year!
11. 2005 – We spent our first Christmas in a house we just bought earlier that year. We bought our first real (fake) tree, decorated and very excited but a week before Christmas, Pristine fell very sick, she wasn’t able to celebrate her 2nd birthday on the 23rd. My brother came from Tokyo to offer help. The house was a mess and I looked like a walking zoombie. Nevertheless, we celebrated it in our own little way, me, my husband, Pristine and my brother. We gathered around the heater (freezing in Nagano, Japan in winter!) and ate and told happy stories. Even Pristine woke up and enjoyed that night so much.
12. 2006 – I spent Christmas in the Philippines with my parents and my many brothers and sisters tagging along Pristine. A month after, we were to relocate to Dubai and traveling would be harder, costlier and longer so I thought I’d go and spend my Christmas there – who knows when I’ll be able to spend it again after living in Dubai.
13. 2007 – Our first Christmas in Dubai. When December was approaching, I thought we’ll never get to celebrate Christmas in this Islamic country but I was in for a surprise!
Merry Christmas to all who are celebrating!
[Top Photo Credit]