Many popular songs about Christmas is about going home for the holidays. Like “Please Come Home for Christmas” (written by Charles Brown, with cover by The Eagles and more recently Kelly Clarkson), “I’ll be Home for Christmas” (sang originally by Bing Cosby with recent cover by Michael Bublé), “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” (originally sang by Darlene Love with a more recent cover by Mariah Carey), and “There’s No Place Like Home For the Holidays” (written by Al Stillman, with a more popular cover by Perry Como and The Carpenters). Maybe you know more songs with the same theme.
The message is clear from these songs that home is where you want to be for Christmas. Who wouldn’t be?
I have now lived half of my life away from the home I once knew. Yes, half of my life I have spent away from my home country, the Philippines. In the more than two decades I have been away, only twice have I come home for Christmas. It is not that I don’t want to, but getting at least a 2-week break to travel back home for the holidays is not easy to get. In addition, the airplane ticket during Christmas time is almost double the cost compared to low season airfare, though there’s no question that it is worth it. Last year could have been the third, but COVID pandemic derailed my plan to visit the Philippines for the Christmas season.
Since I have been away from my “home” for so long, I have called where I am now my new home. After living in Manila for 27 years, and then in New Jersey for 3 years, New York City for 3 years, California for about a year, and Florida for 3 years, I have settled down here in Iowa for 17 years now and counting. This is where I had my own family, had my own home where my children grew up in, and where new happy memories have been created.
Here in Iowa is where I made my own family traditions for Christmas. Like going to a tree farm and having a freshly cut Christmas tree every year. We also enjoy decorating our home for the holidays, making gingerbread house, and baking cookies with my kids. We are thrilled as well to have white Christmas and to frolic in the snow, though shoveling snow to clear the driveway is not fun. I also cherish the moment my children open their gifts on Christmas morning and see the excitement in their eyes.
Though I would not be true to myself if I say that I am not missing Christmas in the Philippines, with children caroling in the street, and the puto bumbong and bibingka, and me hunting my ninong and ninang. On second thought, I am the ninong now, so I’ll be the one who will be hunted.
This year however is quite different. It is the first time that both of our kids have left home. One is in graduate school while the other one is in college, both living in their own apartment or dorm. We are officially empty nesters. How did time sneak up on us?
When we put up our holiday ornaments with the Christmas tree and all, a couple of weeks back, it was kind of lonely as it was just me and my wife setting up the decorations. No kids helping hang the trimmings on the tree. No more little ones making gingerbread house or baking cookies. No one dancing to the Mannheim Steamroller “Christmas.” And nobody is even practicing Christmas songs on the piano.
Is this what our Christmas would be now?
If it is just me and my wife, you might ask, do we even have to decorate for Christmas? The answer is yes. Firstly, it makes our home joyful and bright for the season. Secondly, we will have friends from other states staying with us for the holidays as for some reason they would like to experience an Iowa Christmas. Lastly and most importantly, our hearts are happy knowing that both of our kids will be coming home and spending time with us for a few days.
For this Christmas, we will be under one roof, in front of one Christmas tree, and around one dinner table, gathered together as a family once more.
Whether you are coming home or not for this holidays, may you have a meaningful Christmas and a hopeful New Year.