Truth be told, Christmas is truly my favorite time of the year. Even more than my own birthday, it is Christmas that I truly look forward to always celebrating in a big way.
There are many things about it that I truly love: shopping for gifts; singing carols; and even cooking tons of food in the kitchen.
Christmas, for me, brings back memories of my mom’s holiday cooking especially on the day before the actual celebration. I remember our house being filled with the aroma of meats simmering in tomato-based sauces. Many years after I departed from my childhood, the sounds of bubbling boiling water softening hard strips of pasta as Johnny Mathis’ Winter Wonderland plays on the radio still ring loudly in my ears to this day every time it’s Christmas.
The Noche Buena is, of course, the culmination of all the cooking. Chicken Afritada, Morcon, Embutido, Fruit Salad and Leche Flan as desserts and home-made Cheese Pimiento and Chunky Chicken Sandwich as spreads, along with the traditional ham and cheese, always make it to the feast year after year. Strangely enough, the fixation to certain dishes when this time of the year comes, is not unique to my family. Other Filipino families also have their staples, when it comes to their Christmas favorites.
So I decided to ask some of my close friends in media what their usual Noche Buena or Christmas spreads are like. Here are their mouth-watering answers:
KABAYANG NOLI DE CASTRO’S HOUSEHOLD (As relayed by KAT DE CASTRO)
We don’t serve pork dishes during Noche Buena or even in our regular meals out of respect for my mom’s family who are predominantly Muslims. So for Noche Buena, we usually serve Beef Salpicao, Baked Salmon, Beef Lumpia, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Chicken Carbonara and Fruit Salad. I always bring cakes filled with buttercream since the kids in our family love it!
We don’t have Hamon and Queso de Bola in our holiday menu. Back when my parents were still “struggling,” may queso de bola sila from the office. One time, dinaga yung Queso de Bola namin. It was traumatic for us kids kasi ang laki ng daga. So ayun, nawala na sa amin ang queso de bola. Hahaha!
Wala naman special sa Noche Buena table. Usually kung ano lang din ang paborito namin like Sopas, Macaroni Salad, Ham and Fruits.
Sa akin kasi, ang naging attitude, it’s not the handa. The true spirit of Christmas ay yung ma-celebrate ang true meaning, which is giving and being grateful.
Ever since I was young, my Mom would prepare callos, paella and fruit salad. I would make lasagna and apple pie. But the Star of our Noche Buena are Hamon, Queso de bola, Chocolate eh and Ensaymada.
Noche Buena is a special gathering and we like to put an extra effort by making these special dishes. Right before midnight though, the hot thick chocolate drink with bread, with ham and queso de bola are a must because of our family tradition. Pasarapan pa nga ng recipe ng chocolate eh!
Hamon, Tinapa, Kanin, Adobong Manok, konting Nilagang Karneng Baboy na maraming gulay na sayote at pechay. Yan ang Christmas menu namin. Practical muna at kami-kami lang sa bahay dahil sa pandemya.
Dahil pinag-lihi yata kami ng mga kapatid ko sa Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — pizza! We have boxes of pizza delivered to our house and for sure, ubos naming lahat yun! Ang dali lang di ba? Walang luto-luto, pa-deliver lang! Pero seriously, one dish that always makes it to our Noche Buena table is Kare-Kare. I’m proud to say that my mom cooks a very good Kare-Kare. Inaral niya talaga because that was my late dad’s favorite dish. Kaya para sa family namin, her Kare-Kare is the best sa buong universe!
In the end, no matter how extravagant or simple your Christmas menus may be, it is actually not the food on the table that really matters but the happiness shared by the people around it—and they do have a good reason to celebrate—the Lord has come! Merry Christmas everyone!