ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ
DECEMBER 25 – Christmas Day – has been the grandest in Tintin’s young life.
At the age of seven, my daughter has become aware of many exciting things happening around her.
Her first six years were nothing but an initiation to the world – to the sounds and impressions picked by her five senses as she went about her life at home and elsewhere.
And to this, she just reacted the way a child in his or her growing years usually would. And the previous Christmas when she was only six was no any different – just one of those sweet assault on her with tenderness – and therefore, she did not react the way a much older child would.
But things turned differently since then. Barely two months after she turned seven five years ago, Tintin excitedly embraced the first Christmas Day in her life.
Now, she’s very much aware that it was something that was giving her a lot of pep and sputter of excitement.
During those few days towards her class’ Christmas party – an event most schools held just before knocking off for the long school Christmas break and was most anticipated by students – she kept pestering her Mama about the new dress she was to wear for the occasion.
And of course, the Christmas present that she would like to bring for their “exchange gift” session. No wonder. It was the first Christmas party of her life and she didn’t want to miss it.
Just to think that a week before it, she was down with slight fever triggered by tonsillitis that she missed her classes for two days along with some important periodical tests. And her Mama was worried that she might miss the affair altogether. As a Mom, she knew how Tintin would feel if she missed this one. (The “mama” referred to here is actually Tintin’s auntie, her mommy’s elder sister and guardian.)
At the party, she exuded great pride in giving her Christmas present to a classmate when the moment to exchange gift came.
Earlier, she told her Mama that she wanted to give her best friend a nice little handbag. She even helped her wrapped the modest present. In return, her classmate gave her a nice towel and she was so happy to show it around.
She also received candies and chocolates from their teacher. It was her first time to give something and to receive something during Christmas. In her young mind, she thought the coming of Christmas presents like this was simply cool.
On Christmas Eve, when households all over the country were busy preparing for their Noche Buena (Christmas midnight dinner), she excitedly tagged along with her Grandma to the Midnight Mass and joined the faithful in singing Christmas carols to greet Baby Jesus on His birthday.
These were the songs she came to learn at school and that night, she sang it with passionate fervor although she was off key at times to the amusement of her Grandma.
And returning home from the Church, she gleefully expressed awe at the array of foodstuff on the dining table that the family had prepared for Noche Buena.
The fact is that it was especially prepared to make the night a lot more memorable for her. There were foodstuff she rarely saw – red apples, grapes, pears, the ‘queso de bola”, fried chicken, native cakes, and a lot more.
It was something she only heard about from her older friends at school when they once talked about Noche Buena, something she did not understand fully well as yet. But tonight, she was seeing it in living color and her Mama told her “this is our Noche Buena … do you like it?”.
Now, she knew.
On Christmas Day, she got up early. The first order of the day was to check her new dress with matching cutie handbag and a new pair of shoes she was to wear.
That day, she was to visit his Ninang and Ninong (Godparents) who just live in the neighbourhood. It was her first time to visit them on her own and to do the “pagmamano”, that ancient Filipino tradition of kissing their hands and to receive Christmas presents from them.
She told her Mama she could manage to go to her Godparents’ house. Anyway, it’s just nearby and that a lot of other kids in the neighborhood who were much older than her were doing the same thing.
Then, for the rest of the morning, she was with her playmates/friends making rounds in the neighborhood, singing Christmas carols in front of every house and receiving token presents – small amount of money or small Christmas presents – from the beaming parents.
Coming home at noon, she was sweating all over from the heat of the midday sun, but her troubles of caroling around the neighborhood paid off – her little handbag yielded a few hundred pesos in loose bills and coins, chocolates and candies – her share from the day’s carolling spree.
It was the biggest amount her hands had ever laid on and she proudly declared, to the delight of her Mama and grandmom, that she had earned it on her own.
And that night, she and her Mama went to the night market (night fair) in Olongapo City, which is just 30 minutes from their home in Dinalupihan, Bataan, where there was a big “perya” (carnival) and spent her Christmas money on various rides – from bump car and mini-train ride to Ferris Wheel and jumping game.
She also bought some small items – coloring books, bangles, comb, hair brush, hair bands and ribbons, socks and a lot more -- for her expanding kiddie “accessories”.
When I talked to her on the cellphone a day after Christmas, my daughter reported to me what happened on Christmas Day, and exclaimed: “Daddy, sana Pasko po araw-araw …! Kasi ang saya-saya ko po …! (Daddy, I wish it’s Christmas everyday …I really enjoyed it …!)
As a child, I had similar, rich Christmas experiences and because of this, I easily understood what had gone inside her head.
INDEED, my little darling has grown up a lot and Christmas Day had hit her like a bullet train!
And like her wish for a Merry Christmas every day, I would like to wish all a Happy New Year … every day!