Christmas this year is a mixed bag of sad and joyful, no thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. It has made us realize the most essential things in life, as well as changed us irrevocably. How we are spending the holidays now will reflect the lessons we have learned throughout this difficult but blessed year. To come out of this year alive and healthy is a gift.
We ask personalities from different fields how Christmas will be celebrated in their households.
Christmas Day for us will not be much different from any year because our family circle has always been small. I have no family members in the Philippines. They are all in Toronto. My husband, Patrick, has only one sibling here, Fr. Dennis Paez. Christmas and family events have always just been the five of us, plus one. We are used to being on our little bubble on days leading up to New Year’s Eve. It is our time to be together as a family. We get Fr. Dennis all to ourselves. He gets to rest and just be a brother, uncle, friend. There will be no big Noche Buena with my Oseña relatives this year. Noche Buena has been an Oseña family tradition for many generations. My dad’s seven siblings, including children, have always gotten together on Christmas Eve since World War 2. It’s always a big event that has 50 to70 people in one house party. We’ve decided back in June to cancel the tradition this year so we could protect our elder aunts and uncles. Each Oseña family will celebrate with their own branch. I will miss my cousins. We plan to do a zoom call. Though not being with extended family may seem a bit sad for many, I am reminded of our life in Canada. I grew up in a small bubble with no extended family and very few Filipino friends. So our Noche Buena was always in my parents’ house with just us four siblings and my parents. We were never lacking in laughter, surprises, love, and good memories. As we all got married and had kids, our family grew from six to 20 and my parents’ dinner table had to be extended. I am enjoying this more reflective and meaningful Christmas. I love the simplicity and resourcefulness that are byproducts of the crisis we went through this year. I am handmaking all my gifts. I’ve been staying up late sewing every night. My kids are also drawing and painting for their friends. This time, it really is the thought and effort that matters. Despite having been forced to be physically distant, we are making a bigger effort to remain connected in other ways. —Daphne Oseña Paez, UNICEF ambassador and TV host
Normally, we bring the kids to go skiing in whistler Canada or Niseko, Japan. This year we are all going to El Nido. Christmas has always been adventure/activity-oriented season for the kids so it’s diving for them. Feli and I just love to chill, work out, and eat good food. As the kids dive and Feli does her online workouts, I intend to go long-distance open water swimming. Of course, the spirit of Christmas remains to be Jesus Christ and gratitude for his birth and eventual sacrifice on the cross for all of us. I intend to do a lot of quiet time, reading, and meditation as well. —Kim Atienza, TV host
It has been a tradition for me to go the States for Christmas and New Year to be with my mom, dad, and sister since they are all based there. For this year, I was told by my parents to skip traveling. I have decided to be with my maternal and paternal grandmother in Pampanga, thankful I still have both around. I have considered myself a lola’s boy. Spending the holidays in the province is also my way of paying tribute to both of them. They always encourage me to take pride in my work and to plan things strategically. They taught me that perseverance, kindness, hard work are very important things to apply in life at all times. But perhaps the most important thing that has been passed down from them, aside from love, is generosity: That you should always give from what you have because one will never have enough at any given time. —Jam Melchor, chef and Slow Food Movement PH head
Usually, my family spends Christmas abroad or out of town. But this year, given restrictions due to the pandemic, we will spend our Christmas together at home and enjoy the food that we will prepare ourselves. We don’t mind if we don’t get to see new places, or enjoy a feast. What matters most is that we are all healthy, we are happy, and that we are together by the grace of God. Christmas, after all, is about love, God, and family. —Goddes Libiran, assistant secretary, Department of Transportation
Christmas is about family. We will just have a simple dinner at home. What’s more important is to make do with our Christmas promise: to complete the 18-kilometer Skyway Stage 3 project, which will connect NLEX to SLEX from three hours to only 30 minutes. —Mark Villar, secretary, Department of Public Works and Highways
We normally go to mass with the Romulo family, then rush to the Puyats on Christmas Eve. But because we are still under GCQ and mass gatherings are still prohibited, we will just attend mass online. On the bright side, my son Vito is finally coming home for the holidays! He has been in the province since the start of the lockdown and I am excited that the three of us will finally be together! —Berna Romulo Puyat, secretary, Department of Tourism
Christmas will never be the same for my family as last year my dad passed away on the 23rd of December. Spending Christmas in a wake was really one of the saddest days of my life. It made me realize further the value of family and relationships. So this year we will celebrate Christmas for the first time without my dad and this time we will celebrate his life and reflect on the great memories he has left us. We normally stay at a hotel and have mass. But this time around we plan to go out of town with the whole family. —Dong Ronquillo, editor in chief, Lifestyle Asia
I will be celebrating Christmas this year with more gratitude and appreciation that I’m healthy, my family and friends are safe, and with a more fervent prayer for the nation and humanity that all of us will get through these challenging times. I look forward to the celebration of Christmas but will attend fewer parties because of the current situation and, most important, I look forward to the gift-giving aspect this holiday brings, especially to those who are in need like the victims of the latest calamity. —Mic Coson, store design and business development head, Globe
I honestly do not know how I will be spending this Christmas. Due to this pandemic, it’s hard to plan anything and I have learned to take things day by day, week by week but never monthly. It is, however, my dream to spend the holidays in Europe but since my Dad will not be able to be with me, I will be wherever he is. Christmas is whom you spend it with, not where.—Candy Dizon, jeweler, Jul B. Dizon
This year has brought in a lot of challenges to our world but this will not stop us from celebrating the most wonderful time of the year, Christmas! I will definitely miss the fun-filled parties with friends and the exchanging of gifts and playing all sorts of games during parties [Christmas] this year. I will miss the Simbang Gabi every night or early dawn mass physically in the church.
But thanks to the internet, we can still have livestream mass and have virtual get-togethers. I and my family are blessed to have an extra special Christmas this year. Christmas came early to our family. The arrival of my adorable granddaughter Amarisa will make this season extra special. Our (online) midnight mass and our simple Noche Buena will definitely be happier and brighter. —Nympha Javier Valencia, retired banker
Every Dec 24, we usually have dinner with family and some close friends, which won’t be possible this year. It was always full of laughs, catch-ups, games for the kids, capped by family Bingo before eating Noche Buena at midnight. Christmas won’t be the same this year and that’s okay. A small sacrifice for us to be able to be together again, very soon. Next year, 2021, is just around the corner and I am positive that brighter days are ahead! —Kai Nakanishi Lim, co-owner, Cura V
This year will undoubtedly be different for me, as I’m sure it’ll be different for everyone. In ways big and small, we’ve changed the way we deal with one another, the way we communicate, the way we show our love, especially at this time when sharing and love are the spirit and reason for the season. I’d like to think, whatever outward change, whatever difference in practice, the things that matter never change, so long as we continue to fight for them. Any other year, I’d be eagerly awaiting our films for MMFF, I would be the first in line with everyone else. But we have to remember we can still do those things, we can still support our favorite films and support our local industries. These do not have to change. I’ll miss in-person Christmas parties with our co-workers in the district and in MTRCB. That’ll be especially different and a little bit sad. Thankfully I still have all my furbabies at home and my Mom with me and so many Kdramas I have to catch up on to get me through the holidays. What won’t change, however, is our work in the district. That’s what moves me, keeps me going, being with my beloved Kabaleyans in our district. We will find a way to greet them, serve them, make them feel our love, and touch their lives this Christmas This ‘pause’ has given us all the time to reflect and, for me, that just emphasized what I’ve known all along: Service is more than a passion, it’s my life. —Rachel Arenas, chair, Movie and Television Review and Classification Board
For the first time, I prefer to celebrate Christmas working than being on a vacation. Being stuck at home for almost the entire year because of the pandemic made me realize how grateful I am for the humble career I am blessed with. This Christmas, I am very thankful more than ever. —Thop Nazareno, film director
My Christmas in the previous years has been always a solemn family affair. We gather around the dinner table for Noche Buena at the stroke of midnight. This year, Christmas will be merrier and different as I will be a first-time lolo (grandfather). I look forward to cuddling my apo (grandson) in front of the glistening tree, and thanking God for all his blessings. The joyous season will be extra special, as we will welcome a new addition to our family. Indeed, Christmas is a celebration of life and all that is good within it. —Pinggot Zulueta, visual artist
Honestly, I don’t know what to feel yet this Christmas. Since the start of the lockdown I’ve taken most things one day at a time. It’s hard to expect anything these days. My Christmas is going to definitely be smaller this year. I used to celebrate it with four families, and then a bunch of friends after midnight. With safety being a primary concern, I don’t think that’s going to happen. It’s sad, but I still feel grateful that I’m in a good place. Things could be worse. It’s frustrating not to be able to do most of the things I want to, and that won’t change anytime soon. So best to just make the best out of everything. This Christmas won’t be the same as before, but at least we still get to celebrate it. —Red Ollero, comedian