1. Going Caroling – Going house to house in our neighborhood, singing “Jingle Bells” complete with a tambourine made with tansan (flattened soft drink caps) and being handed candies and/or five- or ten-centavo coins. Carolers – The neighborhood kids belting out “sopas da boys op an angel” a capella or “Ang Pasko ay Sumapit” while banging a pan with a stick. As we handed them coins, we memorized their faces so that if they returned, we would tell them to scram. Today’s rates, according to my Facebook friends in Manila, is five- to ten-pesos. If you give 20 pesos, you’ll surely get returnee carolers.
2. Starting in October, Christmas songs being played everywhere, in department stores, cinema lobbies, jeepneys and by every radio station all day long.
3. Making homemade lanterns of bamboo sticks wrapped with multicolored papel de hapon (Japanese paper), which would adorn every home. Today’s elaborate twirling-lights lanterns were not invented yet.
4. The UP Lantern Parade – The ultimate Christmas celebration on the UP campus, which displayed the most innovative lanterns, the most complex floats and, during our time, the prettiest coeds vying for the Lantern Queen title.
5. The Manila C.O.D. moving display – Cubao’s biggest attraction for years drew a huge celebratory crowd and snarled traffic in the area for hours.
6. The nine-day Simbang Gabi (dawn mass), which we hated waking up to but went anyway, for the steaming hot puto bumbong and bibingka (both rice cakes) sold outside the church.
7. Getting a new dress and shoes for Christmas bought from Carriedo and Central Market, before Cubao and Makati became commercial centers.
8. The Midnight Mass where we actually show off our spanking new clothes. We would squeeze our way to a seat in the very full church, and then sleep through the entire proceeding, which lasted an hour and a half.
9. The Noche Buena, which typically consisted of queso de bola, chicken asparagus soup, Chinese leg of ham, ensaymada (brioche), kakanin (native cake) and tsokolate (hot cocoa), all laid out with the special plates and bowls used only for Christmas. Unfortunately, we would be too tired and sleepy to feast after the Midnight Mass.
10. Waking up on Christmas morning to unwrap presents, only to be disappointed because what we got were what we needed, not what we wanted.
MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!