Sunday, December 26, 2010

Finding Family This Christmas

Christmas when I was a child was all about tradition...the family gatherings at my grandparents whether in Manila or in Silay, the "you have to go to sleep or Santa won't come" threat after dinner, the opening of gifts and noche buena at midnight, the Christmas morning breakfast and mass, and luncheon with all the other relatives and extended families.  After my maternal grandfather died, my maternal grandmother soon after moved to Bacolod.  Although Christmas celebrations continued to be traditional, it stayed local...meaning we stopped going to Manila for the holiday season.  Then my uncle (Dad's brother) and paternal grandfather died within a month of each other.  And so, that year because my Dad's side of the family did not want to celebrate in Silay with all the memories of Christmas past, we went to Manila and Christmas Eve was spent in a hotel room near Paco Park and New Year's eve in the boat coming back to Negros. 

Christmas celebrations changed after that year.  They became more somber and there were no longer big family gatherings.  My maternal grandmother eventually relocated back to Manila upon the prodding of my aunt who was bored of Bacolod, and I guess, also to take care of her house there.  From 1970 and onward, Christmas Eve was basically just us...my parents, 2 brothers, myself...occasionally my paternal grandmother would spend it with us instead of with her daughter in Manila.  Our celebration albeit small, was fun and joyful, such that I never felt the lack of  family.  I remember my Dad thoughtfully observing that we were the only "family" left in Silay, and when he died in 1991 quite suddenly, we were one less more.  But I guess, that is the way life goes for many families...when children become adults, they have their own lives, live independently...and this goes down through the generations, so on and so forth.

Things changed when I got my son, and my brother got married and had children. Our family grew a bit and Christmas became a little noisier again.  Then a first cousin from Manila married a local girl and settled in Bacolod, adding their presence to our Christmas family gathering.  But that's about it.  I didn't think that we can add more to our numbers.   But, Lo and behold... this year, I found "family".  Who would have thought that my interest in genealogy would lead me to finding lost relatives...family that I never knew existed.  And you know what?...after meeting and bonding with them, I realized how I miss those olden days of family gatherings where there was much laughter, camaraderie, warmth and affection for each other. Yes, finding family this Christmas is the most wonderful gift of all.

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