Christmas season was the most festive when I was growing up. House decorations and strings of light start coming out of storage boxes as early as September! Stores start selling decorative items and the radio stations start playing yuletide songs all day long. The Christmas tree gets decorated by late November or early December.
All Saints’ day and All Souls’ day were the only days that came between the start of preparation and Christmas day itself. These two days are considered important since it celebrates the lives of the Saints and prayers are offered for the souls of the dear departed. After this, attention becomes directed to the celebration of Christmas.
It is around December when we start seeing children roaming the streets in the evening and singing Christmas carols to households in exchange for a few coins or treats. The most generous households become popular as word-of-mouth gets around and children (and sometimes adults) compete to be next recipient of the generosity. I myself have taken part of this activity but confined myself to family friends and good neighbors.
Misa de Gallo starts on December 16th and ends with a midnight mass on December 24th. It is a nine day church vigil mass that culminates with a midnight mass on Christmas eve to honor the mystery of Christmas. I was around thirteen years old when I became an active participant of Misa de Gallo. I was one of the guitarist of the chapel choir and I was present for each early morning church mass. Waking up early can take a toll on the day’s activities but not participating was never an option. Each early morning mass delivered a message about Christmas and contemplating each message was part of the process. The question that was always asked back then was – How can I apply the message to my life?
The last church mass was always the most anticipated for several reasons. First, it’s Christmas day! Second, I survived nine days of waking up at three o’clock in the morning to be in church and ready to play the guitar with the choir despite sleeping late the prior night. Third, noche buena will be after mass and all the good food will be ready on the table. For a growing boy, I think the last reason was the most important!
Christmas day was when family and friends come for a visit and exchange greetings. The house becomes a hive of activity during this day and we had people come regularly each year that we started waiting for their arrival. I remember this one particular family who started to drop by the house one year to barter farm goods for clothes or money. We were cautious at first because a lot of indigenous people came that year and bartered goods. Not all of them were nice and we encountered a few troublemakers. This family seemed nice so we bartered with them and that was the start of a yearly relationship. It went on for several years that the baby they had with them returned one day as a young child who greeted us like family members.
I look at my children now and I know they have several Christmas seasons under their sleeve. I know they have accumulated memories and I wonder if they share the same perception as I have. I try to give them the same wonderful experience I had and I hope that they remember that the season of Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus Christ.
What wonderful experiences do you have of the Christmas season? Thanks for reading!