In just a few days, Christmas will be upon us once again! It’s such a wonderful time to take it easy, and be with friends and family. I know that we Filipinos get a lot of mixed reactions for having one of the most elaborate Christmas celebrations in the world. But this is a time when we can come together and be thankful for our blessings. I know that so many people look forward to this season.

Each family has their own holiday traditions that they love doing, whether it’s a special dish being served for Noche Buena, or a gift-giving activity that everyone is involved in. Since being part of an even bigger family, there’s been so much to anticipate every year! Just to get into the holiday spirit, I wanted to share with you some of these personal family traditions that have made our Christmases a little more complete and a little more fun.

Chocolate Advent Calendar for Zion

holiday traditions

They say that Christmas is really for kids, and to an extent it’s true. One of the traditions we have since having Zion is we buy him a chocolate advent calendar. It’s the same tradition I used to have when I was still in grade school back in Switzerland. The advent calendar has chocolates hidden in 24 little compartments which are to be opened one at a time starting December 1 leading up to Christmas. This way, he looks forward to a treat every day. What I especially love about this is that Zion is starting to become more aware of dates. I mean, as a four-year-old, he really doesn’t care whether it’s Saturday or Sunday. But through our little advent calendar, he now has an idea of the passing of days, and can even ask me what day comes next.

Still believing in Santa Claus

holiday traditions

I love that Zion is at an age where he can still be filled with the wonder and magic of the season. Like most toddlers, he also believes in Santa Claus! Of course, we want to keep the magic alive for as long as we can. But I can admit that I appreciate the fact that we can use Santa as a reminder to make sure Zion is on his best behavior. I will remind him that “Santa’s little helpers are watching you!”

Holiday movie marathons

family movie marathon

The best thing about traditions is that you can always initiate new ones, too! Chard, Zion, and I spend time going on Netflix and looking for cool holiday movies that we can enjoy watching together. It’s a really simple thing to do, but it’s these simple things that help us become closer as a family.

Sinatra to set the mood

To set the mood at home for Christmas, we often play Frank Sinatra’s Christmas albums on repeat. Yup! There’s something about his versions of these classics that truly set the mood for a cozy night in. Listening to him makes you feel like there’s actually snow falling outside even if we live in a tropical country!

Christmas Eve dinner

holiday traditions

We usually spend Christmas Eve with the Gutierrezes, and Christmas Day with the Lahbati family. This year, I’m pretty excited because we’re having one big joint celebration since my dad will be here for the holidays. 🙂 We’ll have one big Christmas Eve dinner, and will usually open gifts after we’re all full from our spread.

Gifts of appreciation

holiday traditions

My dad is a Muslim, so he doesn’t really celebrate Christmas. Still, I make sure to give him a gift of appreciation during this time. After all, I am thankful for him and my entire family every single day. 🙂

Holiday-appropriate dessert


While I don’t normally have a particular dish I crave for during Christmas, I always look forward to having Yulo’s Strawberry Shortcake for dessert. We buy this cake very rarely, but it’s always present at the table on Christmas. Seriously—have a bite, and you’ll know what I mean when I say that it’s so special!

Filipino traditions

holiday traditions

Christmas won’t ever be complete without some well-loved Filipino traditions! Every year, Tita Annabelle makes all the kids perform during our Christmas gatherings so that they get aguinaldo in return. The kids are all teenagers now, so I’m not sure how that’s going to go this year. 🙂

Quirky gift wrapping

holiday traditions

Chard and I have a special tradition all our own. We try to dupe each other each year with our gifts. We don’t wrap the gift in a box and call it a day. One time, Chard got me a huge present. I opened it and found another box inside it, and another box inside it. Finally, when I opened it, it was an old shoe box and thought he got me rubber shoes, there was an iPhone inside it. Such a lengthy surprise.

Paying it forward


There’s one final tradition that I’m hoping to initiate this year, and that is giving back. We have been so lucky to be so blessed, so I’m hoping to pay it forward and make someone else’s Christmas a little happier, too. This year, we will be doing something small but special in Cebu. I’ll be sharing all about it in a future blog, but I hope you also take this time to think about what you can do to make someone else’s holiday better. If Christmas is all about love and togetherness, let’s not forget about the love that we can give to people who need it the most.

Have a wonderful Christmas, everyone! Hope yours is filled with warm feelings and wonderful memories.