We seem to hold Christmas memories — the nostalgic, the sweet, even the sad — dearer to our hearts. Maybe that’s because this is a time of year that pulls us closer, makes us feel connected to each other. And when we asked area residents for their favorite Christmas memories, they were happy to share:
Snow at Christmas was a novelty for Razel Germain when she came to the United States in 2009 from her home in the Philippines — where Christmas Day temperatures average around 80 degrees. Last year, Razel became a U.S. citizen through the Immigration Legal Service Ministry at Faith Community Church in Janesville, where she lives with her husband, Dave, a Filipino-American. While the Germains have made their home here, they both fondly remember Christmas in their native land:
Razel: “I grew up in the islands, the seventh of eight children in a big family. When I was growing up, my parents could not afford to buy all the (expensive) foods Dave’s family had, but on our table, we had foods like fruit, boiled eggs, spaghetti, rice. It was simple, but as long as we were together in the family, that was good.
“People make lanterns — that’s a big thing in Philippines. That’s how you feel the spirit of Christmas.
“And everyone from adults to small kids goes from house to house caroling, bringing some instrument like a guitar or even a spoon to bang against something — any instrument they can use while they are caroling. When I was a kid, I went caroling to make money and it was fun.”
Dave: “When I was growing up in the Philippines, we lived in a compound with five to seven houses in it and a lot of close relatives. Usually on midnight on Christmas Eve, everybody — probably around 15 to 20 people — would get together for good food. My favorite was a round cheddar cheese called quezo de bola.
“You miss that big family gathering on Christmas Eve. You can really feel the spirit of Christmas in your home.
“I remember from Dec. 15 to the 24th, there were usually groups of kids who caroled in front of your house. We gave them change or candy.
“Church services started the morning of Dec. 16 and there would be a Mass every day up to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Lots of people go to church. That’s a big tradition in the Philippines.
“And shortly before Christmas there were always fireworks lighting up the sky and lasting to New Year’s Eve.”