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Spending Christmas in the Philippines is probably at the top of the list for many Filipinos living abroad. While other countries have their own way of celebrating, ours is probably the longest and with the most food involved. For me, Christmas starts on the 16th of December, when Simbang Gabi begins. It’s nice to see neighbors out at 5:00 a.m., hearing mass amidst the cool December morning air. In our village chapel, breakfast is served after mass. It can be as simple as coffee and some pandesal or a full breakfast buffet. The 24th has always been quite busy for me, as I am the one tasked with preparing our Noche Buena. From the time I was 18, I’ve taken the role of handling the main dishes for our Christmas Eve meals. Throughout the years, Christmas has always been about lots of good food. This is probably the reason why for those living abroad, Christmas away from the Philippines is the loneliest times of the year. I’ve spent a total of two away from home and I’d never wish to spend another abroad. Reminiscing about the holidays through the years got me thinking about how lucky I’ve been. We’ve always had a magical time during Christmas growing up, especially living in a compound with family just next door. Cooking was my way of giving back, of showing our parents and uncles and aunts that it’s our turn to give them a nice time, even if it’s just for one meal. From associating Christmas with Santa and toys as a kid, to large family meals as an adult, the joy and spirit of the season has never left me. It still is and always will be my favorite time of the year.

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