Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas in our home away from home

A week ago we moved into a small apartment in Los Banos, about 70km south of Manila. It has been a treat to be able to celebrate the Christmas season with some of our familiar traditions.

Los Banos is a small university town. We’re glad to be out of the big, big city of Manila for awhile. A few people from the local community helped to furnish our two bedroom place with beds and linens, a small fridge, dishes and kitchen utensils, tables and chairs, and even curtains for the windows. Our favourite is a curtain made from strings of little shells. Their generosity is an amazing blessing! Once we started to pile our books and magazines around, and unpack things that we’ve been carrying in our packs for almost six months, it really started to feel like home. There are a few other kids living in the building, and it has been a treat for our kids to hang out with people other than adults for a change.

In our home, over Christmas, we have numerous traditions, such as: a real Christmas tree; advent calendars (annually supplied by Pam`s dad), an advent wreath; and, a gift-giving party. We’ve been able to do some creative improvising. John bought some beautiful, large red Bird of Paradise – type flowers. Simon insisted we add lights and tiny gold balls. We made an advent calander since the one from Poppa only just made it to Australia. Fortunately 24 days divides evenly between 4 people. Pam put together a wreath from bits of plastic pine, and Filipino woven plate, some shells from Australia and the Philippines, and some candles. We’ve also hung some paper snowflakes.

At home we typically open presents on December 5 as a way of keeping some of John’s Dutch heritage; to celebrate gift-giving early in the season and not be forced to wait until the 24th; and, to allow our celebration on December 24 and 25 to be about the best gift we have received! We were not ready for December 5 this year, so we had our Christmas party on Dec 16 in our new place. We all ran around for a few days on a scavenger hunt of sorts trying to try find presents that were “suitable”, that is pack-able or consumable Simon’s socks were large enough (and clean enough) to serve as stockings. We had a lovely dinner of chicken, potatoes, carrots and salad. We love opening presents! And then playing with all our new toys! Soon we will have a party for our new neighbours where we will play some of the games that we would normally play at home.

We are still looking forward to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We’re heading north. Not to the North Pole, but to a special part of the country that we’re sure will hold many delights and happy surprises!

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