Christmas with the Dazas
RAZZLE-DAZA - Pat-P Daza (The Philippine Star) - December 23, 2019 - 12:00am

The Dazas thanks to my Lola Angeles exposed us to many Spanish dishes. She showed her love for her family by cooking tirelessly every Sunday and on special occasions like Christmas and New Year. She loved nothing more than having all seven of her children, their spouses and her grandchildren (40 of us) in her home.

My lola always began preparing for the Christmas feast a week before the special day. She’d go to the market to buy fresh ingredients. She even buys live chickens that her helper Rosie has to slaughter when they get home from the market! How could chickens get any fresher than that???

Days before Christmas, preparations would end and the cooking would begin. My lola cooked everything herself: Christmas staples in the Daza household included Russian salad, paella Valenciana, bacalao, chicken galantina, leche flan and homemade ice cream (mango or ube).

My lolo, on the other hand, would be busy assembling his nativity set which had close to a hundred pieces. He acquired this Belen in the early ‘60s when he was in Spain. Every day after his afternoon siesta, he would fuss over the figurines and look for new ways to stage the scene of the baby Jesus’ birth. The Belen was the centerpiece of my grandparents’ home during the Advent season. Every year, lolo would patiently retell to us the story of the nativity. Before Christmas, he would even cover the crib holding the baby Jesus with a delicate piece of cloth because He had not been born yet. It was only on Dec. 25 that he would remove the cloth and reveal the baby lying in the manger.

Christmas Day lunch in my grandparents’ home was always busy and loud. The adults would gather around the long dining table with my lolo at the kabisera while the kids were in the sala. My lola hardly ever sat down to eat, since it was her habit to go around to make sure everyone had enough food on their plate or go back to the kitchen to get more food.

When everyone was done eating, the adults would move to the sala where my Tito Rudy or papa would crack jokes while the kids laughed at everything. And though they told the same jokes every year, we kids never got tired of hearing them. We usually ended our reunions by 4 p.m. and by that time, we were all hungry again. And so, my lola would bring out the leftovers and we would help ourselves to another round of delicious food.

We had this tradition for years while my grandparents were strong. As they got older and weaker, we moved the Christmas lunch to my Tito Boy’s house. Though the food and the jokes were the same, we cousins livened up the gathering by performing a program. Some sang, others danced and others staged skits. During one such show, my female cousins and I strutted down a makeshift catwalk while modeling the nightgowns my lola had given us through the years!

These days, we have our Christmas reunion in my cousin Nina Daza Puyat’s home. Though there are fewer attendees (many of my cousins now live all over the globe), the gathering is just as noisy. Everyone tries to bring a dish that reminds us of our grandparents. My cousin, Fr. Fidel Orendain, SDB, flies in from Cebu (where he’s based) to say Mass for us. During his homily, he always reminds us to be thankful and grateful for our greatest blessing, our family.

From our family to yours, may the true meaning of Christmas reign in our hearts, Merry Christmas!

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