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Traditions I Keep on Christmas Holidays |

Traditions I Keep on Christmas Holidays
Jana Lynne Umipig, on right, with her sister, after midnight mass in 1991, in Stockton, California.

I live in Bronx, New York. This is now my home and where I will spend my Christmas holiday. This time of the year, I get homesick. As I get older, I get more nostalgic.

I left California when I was 22 years old, and this year I’ll be 28 years old. My parents and grandmother who are all currently living in California have aged too, and I realize that I have spent a lot of holidays without them.

Every year, I have taken in some of our traditions in an attempt to feel some of what we do at home, but this year I look to them more deeply that ever.  During Thanksgiving and Christmas I used to prepare foods that I learned from my mother, grandmother and aunts while growing up. I am taken back to my tasks of peeling Lumpiang Shanghai wrappers as a little girl and soaking the noodles for the Pancit Bihon.

Jana Lynne Umipig, based in New York, recalls her holidays, with food and laughter.

Jana Lynne Umipig, now based in Bronx, New York, recalls her family Christmas holidays filled with joy and laughter and delicious Filipino food.

I remember my elders at work in the kitchen. The passing down of delicious recipes is a tradition I value. It has taught me the ritual of gathering in the kitchen. Then, I would sit in the kitchen with them after the cooking is done. From this, I learned the importance of community.

I miss the noise and laughter and storytelling—and often gossip—that would be a part of our food preparations. I realize that this is why I call on my roommates and friends to come into the kitchen and help me or call my family over Skype and phone to help with the extra special ingredients of joyousness and light-heartedness.

The spirituality during holidays was also important to my family, like the ritual of setting out plates of food for the altar, calling our ancestors to join us in our holiday feast. My grandmother would instruct me to put a piece of each dish on a plate, in colorful arrangement, and I’d follow behind her as she would call to them again and again: “Umay Kayon! Mangan Tayon!” (Come all of you! We’re eating now!)

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Author, Jana Lynne Umipig, recalls her Christmas Holidays with family.

As a child this practice was something I feared because I believed the ghosts of my great uncle or grandfather would appear. What I didn’t realize then was that this tradition is one of connection and communion with our ancestors.

This holiday, I will place food on my altar and in my study to connect and feel their presence, without fear and with great faith and gratitude.

Another tradition was the Mano ‘Po. After the midnight mass, blessings were always something I looked to with importance as I place my hand on the forehead of my elders. I remember how much they connected with me, and took this in, eyes shut, with grace, a smile and deep breath. It made me believe in God’s spirit within me.

This Christmas holiday, I feel blessed. I feel my family uplifting my spirits even though I am miles away. I am carrying on with our traditions and sharing them with my community of friends and co-workers. These traditions keep my Christmas spirits up.  There is great comfort and joy in knowing I can turn to this throughout my life and pass it on to my children in the future.

The spirit of the holiday doesn’t just come from Santa’s cookies, jingle bells and toasts of champagne, Lumpia and midnight mass. It comes from gathering with the ones you love most;  it comes from the power of belief, faith and traditions passed down from one generation to the next.

The author, second to the right, happily posing  with family during a holiday visit to California.

The author, second to the right, with family in a rare, holiday visit to California.

Jana Lynne Umipig

Jana Lynne Umipig

Born in Honolulu, Hawaii and raised in Stockton, California- Jana Lynne Umipig, a womyn of Pilipino decent has directed her life goal at cultivating alternative teaching tools for human rights and for human rights and social justice education that incorporates artistic mediums in performance and visual expression,enriching leadership and self-development work for young people. Through the development of her art for social justice pedagogy she seeks to provide safe spaces of artistic expression and learning for young people that establishes and maintains a strong sense of community, support, continuity and honesty for youth to grow and learn in.

A graduate of the University of California, Irvine with a Bachelors in Theatre and Asian American Studies and currently completing her Masters in Educational Theatre for Communities and Colleges at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education, much of Jana Lynne’s work has been directed toward this fusion of social justice and arts education. Most of her work has focused on the Asian American particularly Filipino American community, heavily pertaining to issues faced by young womyn.

Jana Lynne Umipig

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