Christmas Footnotes

I woke up with the realization that we are on the last week of January and I have not written about Christmas in this blog.

So pardon the obvious lateness of this post as I share with you how our multi-cultural family celebrated Christmas.

Jeff is big on making the children believe of the existence of a Santa Claus, just as his parents cultivated his sense of imagination as a kid who believed in the big man in red suit.

He shared to me a story when he, probably as a boy of five or six years old, woke up to a rustling sound in the living room. Little Jeff went out of his bedroom to check out the noise and lo and behold, who did he see?

Santa Claus putting gifts under the Christmas tree!

He said his Mom calmly led him back to his room but the memory of Santa Claus standing in their living room, smiling at him, stayed with him until the time when kids from school told him that Santa Claus is a myth.

He later discovered that his parents were “Santa Claus” and that Mom and Dad are the ones who gave him and his siblings the gifts.

As for the Santa Claus he saw in their living room?

It was his Dad: Louis Ruffolo.

Louis went all out in the Santa department and would wear the red costume when he arranges the gifts on Christmas Eve just in case any of the younger children, who still believed in Santa wakes up to find him with the gifts.

So the magic continued in our house last December and we started it off with wrapping gifts since November 2017.

Don’t judge me. Not the best person in the gift-wrapping department.

I grew up contented with receiving just one gift on Christmas but it was Jeff who wrapped every single gift — no matter how small — so every child can have more.

We “hid” the gifts on top of our closet. We made sure every child has equal number of gifts. There were generic gifts and there were gifts bought for every child’s interest.

Nicholas, who is growing to be an engineer/scientist, got cars and legos. Antoinette, who loves cooking, got a spatula and a strainer. Jeff Junior, who is learning about shapes and colors, got multi-colored balls and plastic fruits and vegetables.

All three kids got books and aprons.

Before they received these gifts though, we had a little ceremony at home.

You see, I grew up having a huge feast on Christmas Eve. We call it “Noche Buena”, which is basically from the Spanish term nochebuena referring to the night of Christmas and often celebrated on December 24.

Growing up, we had dinners of ham, pansit, lechon, various pork dishes such as afritada and humba, sweet and sour fish and fried chicken. Dessert is fruit salad, which is basically different kinds of fruits (or for convenience, fruit cocktail in can) mixed in cream and condensed milk.

Jeff told me that he grew up having a full meal at 2 p.m. on Christmas Day itself.

The year 2017 is our second Christmas together in the Philippines.

In 2012 and 2013, we celebrated Christmas away from each other; Jeff was in China and I was in the Philippines. In 2014, we were in China and in 2015, we were in the US. I cannot remember how we celebrated Christmas 2016 except that we were in the Philippines that year.

Because of our seemingly crazy schedules and our multi-cultural practices, we settled on simple dinners; the kind that we prepare when it is not Christmas.

We had a simple Christmas Eve dinner of Italian pasta and fried chicken. The following day, I guess it was ham, mashed potato and some green beans.

Before and after. Guess who drank the milk and ate the cookies?

On Christmas Eve, we told the children to leave some cookies and a glass of milk by the Christmas tree so Santa Claus can eat. He must be famished from all that traveling in different countries to leave gifts for children.

The twins’ eyes grew so big as they listened to Daddy talk about Santa Claus. It was a joy to witness them in wide-eyed wonder, curious and focused on Daddy’s story. Before 10 p.m., they went to bed. When the coast was clear, Jeff and I hauled the gifts from our bedroom to the living room.

Jeff, who is ever the excited Dad on Christmas Day, woke me up at 6 a.m. so we can announce to the children that “Santa left surprises for them.”

The look on the children’s faces when they heard their Dad say those words! They hurriedly went down the stairs, all the way to the living room, where they saw that the cookies and milk were gone. (I ate the cookies and drank the milk.)

Before opening the gifts, Jeff led us in prayer, thanking Heavenly Father for a wonderful year of 2017 and for the gift of love and family. Then, we proceed to opening the gifts.

I am an eternal worrywart. I worry that I worry. One of my worries is Santa Claus. Are we fooling our children of the red man’s existence? Are we making our children selfish creatures when we make them believe that Santa Claus will give them gifts on Christmas IF they are nice? How do we explain to them, when the time comes, that Santa Claus is not real?

In all these questions, Jeff gives me a smile and a touch of assurance that it will be okay.

“Children learn the truth about Santa Claus from other children. It is a coming-of-age for them. Our role as parents is not to make them not believe or not imagine; our role is to be there to explain situations to them and make them understand with love and sincerity,” Jeff said.

“Thank you” was repeatedly uttered that morning.


It was a quiet Christmas for us.

I like it that way.

Now what to do for Christmas 2018?