Christmas is symbolized by the traditional belen with Mary, Joseph and Jesus, Christmas lanterns and trees, Santa Claus and his reindeer for the children, the Three Kings, mistletoes, Christmas carols and cards, among so many others.

In Cebu, malls, parks, hotels and restaurants entice visitors with their glorious Christmas decorations, like those in SM and Ayala malls.

The ceremonial lighting of the Christmas trees in the hotels like Marco Polo Plaza Cebu, Radisson Blu Cebu and Seda Ayala Center Cebu comes with favorite Christmas dishes.

My childhood Christmas cheers in Biñan, Laguna included the long wait for the noche buena with gifts from Santa Claus, chestnuts, Baby Ruth, the “puto bumbong” and ham, of course.

Funny, when I grew up and then settled in Quezon City, then Cebu, the same Christmas cheers delighted me. But Christmas songs like “White Christmas,” “Blue Christmas” and “Feliz Navidad” carried more meaningful insights.

The We Care Foundation celebrated Christmas every year before the pandemic and donated food, clothing etc. to selected beneficiaries, mostly children. The Academe did likewise with Christmas cheers of rice, food and clothes. The Sisters of Mary schools of boys and girls received Yuletide tokens from sponsors and friends.

When I was active with the American Chamber in Cebu, we partnered with Shangri-La’s Mactan Island Resort and Spa in giving food, rice, clothes and toys to needy children led by John Domingo, Paul Flutty, John Taylor, Alice Woolbright, Cherrypie Callelero, Danny Deen, Jake Marquez, Tim Wright, Michael Go and other officers.

The children with cancer had Christmas tokens from Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko. For many years, Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino had a special program for them as well.

There were years when the University of San Jose-Recoletos’ Dramatics and Cultural Ensemble and Amparito L. Lhuillier Educational Foundation scholars—with other students from schools like University of Cebu, University of the Visayas, University of Southern Philippines, University of San Carlos and Southwestern University, had their Christmas caroling in Fuente Osmeña for children from all walks of life sponsored by the city government.

Definitely, Christmas and the New Year will have a new flavor this year as we are still recovering from the pandemic, typhoon and other calamities. The Filipino family will always be the hearth of Christmas.