Ema Trinidad, a Filipino, has made Bangalore her home for the past six years. But it is during the month of December that she misses Manila the most. “Celebrations here are very different from those back home,” says Ema, adding that in Manila people start celebrating as early as September. “The Christmas lights come out, shops are decorated and the streets are filled with music and food,” she says.
Another interesting tradition that is observed in her country is that of Simbang Gabi (church night). From the December 16 to 25, a series of masses are held at 4 am everyday. It is believed that if you attend the mass on all nine days, your wishes will come true.
“Unlike the west, we feast on Christmas eve and not on Christmas Day. Also, we open our gifts right after the mass on 24th itself,” she says, adding that Christmas day is mainly spent visiting family and friends.
Collecting gifts is another interesting tradition. “Back home, we start receiving gifts from the beginning of the month itself. As the gifts come we keep them under the tree. My kids used to compete with each other on who got the most. Then we all would sit together and open them,” she adds.
But it is different for this family in Bangalore. Instead of a big party at home, Ema prefers to celebrate the festival with her colleagues in the office. “I throw a big party. People really look forward to it,” she says.
Christmas Eve is still spent with family besides a beautifully decorated Christmas tree and a scrumptious homemade meal of pasta and roast chicken.
Christmas is reserved for a big fat brunch at a fine dining restaurant. “We don't eat turkey so we order mainly roast pork. Also we order anything with noodles in it as it signifies a long life. Back home, we used to eat a dish called pancit. Christmas ham and cheese balls also form a major part of the meal,” she says.
The evenings are spent talking to her 21-year-old daughter who is studying in Manila. “Christmas is all about spending time with family. It is just like Diwali, only the name differs,” she says.