Celebrating an overseas Filipino Christmas
MANILA, Philippines – Every Christmas, Melda would cook her signature meaty spaghetti for Noche Buena. She makes it sweet, with a generous serving of ground beef and bits of red hotdogs, topped with a copious amount of cheese – the Pinoy-style spaghetti.
Apart from attending Simbang Gabi and hanging a capiz lantern in front of her house, serving a dish that she grew up eating for Noche Buena is one of the ways Melda keeps a Filipino Christmas, even if for 10 years now, she’s been celebrating it in Canada.
Melda is one of the 2.2 million Filipinos who will be spending another Christmas away from home this year. But even if they can’t come to the Philippines, Filipinos always find a way to take the Philippines with them especially during the holidays.
In Beijing and Singapore, Filipino communities hold Christmas parties that boast of food, games, raffle prizes, and performances of popular Pinoy Christmas songs. These parties don’t fall too far from those we celebrate with our officemates, friends, and families here at home.
Vanjo Merano, founder of the Panlasang Pinoy blog, is part of a group of Filipino families in Chicago, USA who try to keep Filipino Christmas traditions alive.
“Our group, composed of around 20 Filipino families, celebrates Filipino Christmas. During Christmas parties, each family will bring their special homemade dishes for sharing,” said Vanjo.
Vanjo has been based in Chicago for 11 years. When he first arrived, he noticed the lack of restaurants and stores serving Filipino food. He knew he had to do something about it.
“I had to travel several miles in order to sample quality Filipino food. I was saddened by the situation, so I decided to build a blog that will showcase and promote Filipino Cuisine one recipe at a time,” said Vanjo.
Through his blog, he shares recipes of different Filipino dishes like menudo, afritada, adobo, and lumpiang sariwa for two reasons: so our kababayans abroad can always have a taste of home, and so people from other nations can discover the Filipino cuisine and learn how to cook it.
Cooking Filipino food would always bring back Vanjo’s memories of his childhood in Las Piñas especially during Christmas.
“We used to have a family reunion every Christmas. My mom’s siblings and their families all meet in her house on Christmas eve,” said Vanjo. “We go to church to hear anticipated Christmas day mass and eat Noche Buena together. It was really fun and exciting because everyone tries to catch up with one another. There were games and tons of food.”
Now that Vanjo has his own family, he still follows the tradition he grew up with.
“We attend Simbang Gabi here in Chicago hosted by the Filipino community. We also throw Christmas parties with gift giving and exchange gifts sort of like monito-monita,” said Vanjo. “Noche Buena is also always part of our tradition. Our staples are menudo, meaty spaghetti, lechon, macaroni salad, morcon, and pancit canton.”
And using the right ingredients like how our mothers and grandmothers used to make these traditional Filipino dishes is key in keeping the taste and the memories that go with it intact.
“Knorr has been a key ingredient even when I was still in the Philippines. It brings out the flavors in every dish and makes it more enjoyable. I’m glad that I have access to Knorr products here in Chicago so I can still cook our favorite dishes the same way,” shared Vanjo.
Melda, Vanjo, and every Filipino community around the world show that wherever you go, you can always have a truly Filipino Christmas.
“To me, a Filipino Christmas is celebrating Christmas the same way that I did when I was still in the Philippines. This includes practicing Christmas traditions such as simbang gabi, countless Christmas parties with Filipino friends, family reunions, and sharing and enjoying our favorite holiday Filipino food,” said Vanjo.
After all, the spirit of Filipino Christmas is right inside every Pinoy’s hearts. – Rappler.com