Saturday, December 24, 2011
Christmas brings families together, with Jesus at the center, to celebrate love, share joyful moments, giving gifts, and strengthening relationships. Tonight, at the stroke of midnight, after their members have attended the Simbang Gabi (Christmas Eve Mass) and paid homage to the image of the Infant Jesus in the Church’s Belen, Filipino families will come together to partake of their traditional “Noche Buena” dinner.
The Noche Buena is a beautiful tradition that has been passed on to us through many generations by our foreparents. Many liken the Noche Buena to the Western celebration of Thanksgiving Day when all the family members, and even the entire clan, gather for dinner.
In olden times, the typical Noche Buena table featured queso de bola, hot chocolate, chicken galantina, acharra, and leche flan. As centuries passed and with other foreign influences, the Filipino Noche Buena table has evolved to include the Christmas ham, pansit, fruit cakes, and wine. Today’s Noche Buena treats also include our very own puto bumbong (steamed glutinous rice cooked in bamboo shoots, flavored with brown sugar and grated coconut), bibingka, suman, and salabat (native tea). In some homes, the Noche Buena table centerpiece is our native lechon.
But beyond sharing a common meal together among family members. Noche Buena is a celebration of the joyful moment of the coming of Jesus in our midst. It is a commemoration of that “Good Night” when the Blessed Mother gave birth to God’s only begotten Son who was destined to reestablish our relationship with God after we had been separated from Him by sin. It is the celebration of God’s love for humanity: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will have life eternal (John 3:16).
As we prepare for tonight’s Noche Buena, let us make space for Joseph, Mary and Jesus in our hearts and in our lives, that we may emulate their simplicity, their devotion to each other, their sincerity in serving others, and their profound and abiding faith in God’s goodness and compassion. Let us be willing messengers of the hope by making those who have less in life experience the joy and love that the Christmas season brings.