I’ve never spent Christmas away from my family—well, that was until two years ago. In 2008, I went to Europe for a junior term abroad and had to spend Christmas in France with 4 other classmates from Ateneo. It was a big concern for me as other than celebrating Jesus’ birth, the holidays were all about family for me as our entire clan would get together, play games, exchange gifts and more importantly, bond over LOTS of food.
Determined to still make the most out of the season despite deciding not to go on another costly European trip that Christmas break, we decided to spend Christmas Eve in the dormitory, which was gloomy with all the French dormers leaving for the holidays. We invited Joseph, another Pinoy friend who was studying in Southern France for the semester, to spend Christmas with us over dorm-kitchen-cooked dinner. Part of it was because we wanted to hang out with him and part of it was because we learned that we could whip up a good Pinoy dish :) (Kidding!)
Upon fetching him in the gare, we joined the flood of people going to the supermarket to buy food to cook for the night. It was exciting for us that we were going to prepare some usual Pinoy Christmas food as we were getting tired of the baguette/kebab/pizza regulars. We went back to the dorm and whipped up some favorites: bistek, Pinoy-style Austrian strudel (with lots of cheeeese!) and Pinoy-style carbonara (yes, almost every pasta dish in Europe is extra sour).
Even without our biological family and well-prepared dinner, it was a fun night for all of us as we got to have a taste of being the same Christmas and food-loving Pinoys that we were despite being in a foreign world. Even without gifts to give out to each other, we got to experience sharing Pinoy food recipes, cheap French wine, laughters, and memories. Cheers to sharing not only the material things but more so, the things that really matter every Christmas :)