As the song goes, “And may the spirit of Christmas be always,” I continue with the lyrics, “in our hearts.” It’s stuck in my head, replaying as if it were on loop like a broken record. After the loop ends, I am then left with the lingering question, “Has Christmas always been in my heart?”
I remember when I was little I’d wake to colorful decorations outside of my bedroom. Golden beaded strings, red poinsettias, green table mats and fancy silverware perfectly aligned, and that ever so annoying Santa Claus button I’d play with under our Christmas tree just to change the holiday jingles that filled our living room. Back then, we all lived together in what would look like a Garcia compound in Marilao, Bulacan. Even if everyone had their respective houses, we’d all still end up gathering early in the morning at our home.
Tradition begets tradition. Thus, after everyone hears mass in the early morning of Christmas, we’d go straight to our house for the gift-giving and gift-opening ceremonies. Resounding wows, cheers, and laughs echoed throughout my home while everyone took turns to give and receive gifts. Nothing could ever beat the joy I’d feel down from my stomach and up to my heart during these moments on my favorite holiday. I was surrounded with the people I grew up with and the people who watched over me. It was the best feeling in the world. That was Christmas. Family was Christmas.
Of course all that changed when some of my relatives moved to Australia in the year 2003, and in 2010, the others moved to Canada. I remember creating PowerPoint presentations and music videos with collages of our old photos, all with Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You as the background music. I remember my ten year old self learning how to use Yahoo mail so that I could send these mini tidbits of memories to my relatives who resided thousands of miles away. Although our families were still very close, I’d be lying if I told you that Christmas was still the same when they left.
I guess what made things worse for my younger self was since I studied in Manila, I gradually lost free time to go back home and visit our old house in the province. Also, due to the perennial flooding in our hometown, our house is now unrecognizable compared to how it was back then. Going back to the house where we all used to gather could either give me the happy nostalgia I needed or the kind of nostalgia that couldn’t be resolved.
Last December 2014, the sentimental longing came to an end when the four of us—my father, mother, brother, and I—travelled to Canada to spend Christmas there. I was overjoyed knowing very well that I’d be able to spend my favorite holiday with my cousins, aunts, and uncles again—together once again. I knew the trip was no piece of cake, but nonetheless, I knew if given the chance, I’d grab the opportunity to experience it once again.
As the years passed, I knew that it was more than enough that I had my immediate family members at my side during the holiday, however, in the succeeding years after our first snow, I’d always catch myself wishing and hoping we celebrate Christmas abroad once again. At some point, there were moments wherein I’d ponder, is it possible for a group of people to be your Christmas? Would Christmas still live up to its hype as a holiday if it weren’t spent with the people you’d want to spend it with?
This year, I came full circle and realized your Christmas reflects you as a person, it depends on how you decide to spend it. I think it’s about time I eventually let go of this notion that I’d only be truly happy during the holiday if I were with the people I want to be with. Christmas has always been about thanksgiving and being content with what you have and who you’re with at that moment in time. For now, I’d bask in the fact that I am able to give, share, and receive love in the most beautiful season of love and gratitude.