Just like wrinkles, waistlines and age, my concept of Christmas has evolved and expanded.
As a little girl growing up in the safe, womb-like confines of the UP campus in Diliman, it was all about opening presents, getting a new dress for the Midnight Mass and handing out five centavos to the carolers who were little kids as well.
During my teenage years, it was no longer fun to receive gifts from just anyone. It had to be from someone special whose idea of a gift would be as crude (and cheap) as a social telegram or a scented letter in ungrammatical English. The carolers had grown up along with me, and they were coming to the house in groups, usually representing some campus club. And I often became one of the carolers myself, mainly because caroling was one of the few times my ultra-strict father allowed me out at night. The Midnight Mass became an unwelcome obligation.
As a young single adult, Christmas meant parties, giving and receiving gifts, watching "The Andy Williams Show" and feeling depressed at the stroke of midnight because the Noche Buena only underscored the loneliness of being a young, single adult.
With motherhood, Christmas became fun again because there's nothing like children to perk up the mood and give meaning to the holiday.
When we moved to the US, the celebration became more festive as we spent ours with our extended family and the giving and receiving of gifts became a sacred ritual that was as much a reflection of this consumerist society that we're living in, as it was to fill the empty spaces in our hearts, which expats understand only too well.
As our children have grown and moved away to lives of their own, our Christmases are no longer pegged on the calendar. They have become moveable feasts subject to the volatility of conflicting schedules, airline fares and climate changes.
This year we are celebrating Christmas after Christmas. And just as we look forward to being together, albeit too briefly, we send you the biggest, sincerest wish that your holidays, no matter how and when you celebrate them, will be blissful and peaceful. And just so hugely happy that the spirit will dominate your hearts all throughout the New Year.