This was the least stressful Christmas I’ve had in a long time. I think it has something to do with my long Christmas break. My last official work day was Dec. 17, although I showed up morning of the 20th for a quick meeting before heading off to lunch. By December 22, I’ve already completed our supermarket shopping which pretty much filled up our SUV. Ariel and I also had plenty of time shopping for household stuff, and we had fun decorating the house with a splash of Christmas colors. I also had a lot of time planning our menu and preparing some of the dishes in advance.

So, on the morning of the 24th, I was very relaxed as I prepared for the Noche Buena feast. My parents, brother and sis-in-law, Ariel’s parents, sister and nephew, sis-in-law and nephews joined us for our traditional dinner and noche buena.

The tree surrounded by gifts waiting to be opened on Christmas eve
Colorful Coke glasses

Early in the afternoon, my mom called to tell me that my dad was sick and it’s highly likely that they won’t make it for the Christmas. My brother drove to their place and helped my mom in buying meds for my dad. Thankfully, by dinnertime, my dad was well enough to be driven to our place.

At around 6pm, we enjoyed a simple early dinner of pancit guisado and lumpiang shanghai. In the middle of our dinner, the lights went out. We later found out that the brown out covered our three clusters in our village. We finished the rest of dinner by candle light. Good thing power was restored about an hour later.

At about 11:30pm, we gathered again for our noche buena. We had rellenong bangus, fried chicken with gravy, chopsuey, and caldereta.

Baked mashed potatoes and gravy from chicken drippings

Enjoying dinner

My mom and dad with one of our helpers, Annie

After dinner, it was time to open gifts. Everyone had a great time giving and receiving gifts.

Nanay and tatay showing off their gifts

Brenda (Ariel’s sis) with the gifts she got from us

Mommy with half her gift – the other half she had to see out in the garden

Malou and Annie opening their gifts

Cha (my sis-in-law) helping the kids open their gifts

Carlo and Joc busy with opening gifts

Mom opening the gift from my brother and sis-in-law

Ariel with one of his gifts

Dad and his gift

After our exchange gift, Ariel and I drove my parents home so my dad can get a good sleep to fully recover from his fever.

The following day, my aunts (mom’s oldest and youngest sisters) and their hubbies, as well as my cousins (from mom’s youngest sis) with their families came over to celebrate Christmas day as we always have for as long as I can remember. They brought food (Shrimps with quail eggs and veggies, and pork bbq) and I prepared my usual roasted chicken, as well as green salad and beef caldereta. My SIL, Ems, prepared pork sinigang. As usual, we ate in the garage. We dressed up the tables with red and green tablecloth and lighted tea lights by the buffet table.

Cousin Jo-Ann opened the lunch buffet
Couple pic, in matching shirts

After lunch, we just hung out and exchanged stories. The babies watched a video, the older kiddos went biking.

The bunso kiddos watching a movie

Rebonded beauties, except for Ems (leftmost)

Beautiful long hair

Born kikay
Clockwise from top: Mom, me, Ate My, Ems, Emman, Jo-Ann (with Jana), Richelle (with Riley), Nompe, Ninang Oying (Moms eldest sis), Ninang Nora (Mom’s youngest sis), Ate Ezel

Take two

Then we opened gifts. It was total mayhem. So much fun! Specially fun to watch the kiddies open their gifts.

Jana opening her gifts

Cousin Jojo with wife Richelle and son Riley – we gave all my cousins a family photo embellished with scrapbooking goodies and framed in a shadow box. I shot the photos last Nov. 1 using my home studio lights.

Riley getting excited

Happy to get yet another Thomas train set

Another Thomas train
Couple pic, take two

B and W version

Ninang Oyin and Nompe (who is almost 91 years old)
My favorite pic of the day – can’t remember what we were talking about

My cousins left in the evening after sharing a pot of freshly brewed coffee. As usual, it was fun, chaotic, and did I mention fun?

And finally, some of the decors that adorned out house for the holidays.

The coffee table centerpiece

My cutie Nativity scene

An assortment of old and relatively new decors

My Coke mini snowglobes

More Coke decors – mugs and cookie jar

One of my Coke tree ornaments

Another Coke ornament

Another Coke ornament
Another Coke ornament

Coke “mailbox” – always a big hit among guests

Even the toilet is donned with Christmas decors

Our front door

The front steps

Our tree at night

That’s about it. It was another blessed Christmas spent with people we love. Hope yours was just as great!

Up next (if I can manage it), New Year photos!

Written by Alby Laran

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