Since Saipan is across the international date line, they’ve already celebrated Christmas. Christmas in the Pacific was wonderful. There was sun, roasted pigs, and my mother who told exclaimed about how much she spent on prime rib ($80!).
Since my Mom was (and is) a member of the choir, my sister Bobbie and I would follow her to midnight mass. Even though a Catholic mass is usually an hour, the midnight mass would drag on forever, probably to punish all the people who were just there for the holiday. I wish the church would offer two rooms in the back. One would be a crying room for those who were with children and the other room would be a mini-discotheque for those who want to get their floss on. Hey, if the Vati-can, so can you!
The local news station would also film the mass and pan the camera from one side to the other. Bobbie and I would take turns, one would sleep while the camera moved on and the other would elbow the sleeping one so she wouldn’t be broadcasted sleeping during mass. But it’s hard to look engaged when someone’s just elbowed you awake, so if you watched the midnight mass and wondered why that girl looked like she was wide-eyed and tweaking, my sister just shoved me and I was trying to secretly wipe the drool off my face.
Another of my most vivid memories was celebrating the Niño. Every village parish had an assigned group of people who would walk carrying the baby Jesus to each house in the neighborhood. A truck which blared Christmas music sung in Chamorro would follow behind the procession so you would know they were approaching. My mom would lament that in her day, it wasn’t a stereo, but rather people singing while sitting in the bed of a truck.
When you heard the music approaching, you gathered your family to welcome the procession. A member of the group had a box with a slot for accepting money donations for the church. So after you shoved some money into the box, another member of the group would hand you the Niño which you would bring into your living room and everyone in the house would kiss the porcelain doll, usually on the foot.
I would try to get out of this tradition because they usually arrived extremely early and since I had spent many hours on Christmas Eve chatting with my internet boyfriend (one year, a guy from a Denmark, another, a guy from Canada), I was so tired. But my mother would not have it. I would protest that I could not kiss the Niño because I was in a faded Garfield nightshirt where Garfield is on a scale and the words “WEIGHT IS JUST A NUMBER!” hovers over him. I would stammer that God knew I was in my Garfield pajamas but my mom would still yank me toward the living room so I could kiss the Niño, cat garb and all.
Did you have any Christmas traditions growing up? We haven’t settled on any traditions for our family, other than someone crying, someone drinking and someone yelling to shut the door, don’t let the heat out! Yes. I’m all three of those people. Merry Christmas!