My mother taught me a lot of things, and that even includes how to string the lights on my Christmas tree 🎄. My mother lived with me for 25 years. She helped me raise my children and was definitely the glue and rock of our family. 

I miss her dearly! As I decorate my Christmas tree this year, I hear her voice whispering to me “Rachel, make sure you string the lights loosely and don’t skim on the lights. Make sure you go deep inside the branches of the tree so your tree would look robust!” My 9 foot tree would end up having 1,200 mini lights and that’s because of her. She would sit by the tree and examine the tree closely. She would point out areas where I missed a spot. And she was right! 

She always reminded me not to forget our Filipino traditions during Christmas. The sweet ham, and the “Queso de Bola” (Cheese Ball) is a must on the table. Having fruits like apples, grapes, and oranges. Setting up a “Belen” (nativity scene) to add to the festive season and to remind us all that we are celebrating the birth of Jesus. 

My mother was very religious. It was important that we went to church either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. 

In the Philippines, growing up, my mother would take us to “Simbang Gabi” (night mass). It was in the wee hours of the morning. We had to do this for 9 straight mornings before Christmas. It was a belief that if you complete all 9 days, your wish would be granted. 

Vendors outside the church would sell “puto bumbong” and “bibingka”. These are local Christmas foods that we usually buy right after mass. 

Another tradition is Christmas Caroling. We used to go from house to house and sing Christmas songs. 

Anyway …. thinking of how we celebrated Christmas in the Philippines sure brings back a lot of memories. 

When my mom was still alive, she would also remind me to hang a “Parol” outside my house. This is a distinctive Filipino ornament. It’s a star ⭐️ that’s usually made out of different recycled material. You’ll see this hanging, adorning homes, streets, and just about everywhere you go in the Philippines. 

The funny thing is, whenever I see a “Parol” hanging outside a house – here in New Jersey, I’m assured that Filipinos live in it 😊.

So now that I am preparing for Christmas this year, I can’t help but feel a little melancholy. I lost my mother last year. As excited as I am that Christmas time is just around the corner, I think about her and wish that she was here with me. And this is where I say….

Merry Christmas in Heaven 🎄❤️🙏🏻