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A Filipino Christmas

A Filipino Christmas

Yolanda Ramos continues to share some of her favorite Filipino holiday memories and traditions with me. These are her words.

One of my favorite memories of being a child was, of course, being with friends on the Misa de Gallo. Because it's like you see each other at dawn, you eat, you giggle, you talk. And other than that just being with family.

We have eight children, and 14 grandchildren in our family now. And that's just our family. If you go up from that, we are a village. The last time we had a grand reunion we were 200 plus. We always have to have name tags. And this last time we had color coding, so that we know exactly from what family each person comes from. My mom has a brother who had 16 children. Their family had the color pink. Everywhere you looked was the color pink. And that's what you miss.

When I was young, we would always have that reunion at my grandmother's house around Christmas. And we'd all get together. And we would get money! From each of the aunts and uncles we would get money. We would line up and there were eight of them, so we would always be very excited. And then my grandmom would sit there and say, "OK, give back 5 cents for floor wax." The old houses in the Philippines were made of wood, and they always wax the floor. They scrub it, they wax it, so it glitters. Since we played on the floor all over the house, she asks for money for the floor wax. Nobody lines up! "Give back to Lola!" And no one would line up.

I also remember always making the worst parole. Never knew how to make a parole. Usually you make them out of bamboo and Japanese paper, with paste, or if you were too poor you would use rice. But now the designs are magnificent. What they do here (in the U.S.) is nothing compared to the Philippines. We have the longest Christmas season. When I go home, I am booked every day with parties. With reunions. I come back to Los Angeles, and I'm exhausted. I didn't sleep in the Philippines. I have to sleep now.

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