It is a Philippine custom to give gifts to every one you know during the Christmas season, including the security guards, the street sweepers, garbage collectors, neighbors, etc. At the family reunion, one gives gifts to the adults and usually cash to the children. Compared to my father’s relatives where we usually go for the family reunion during Christmas, we are the least materially blessed, and so we were always on the receiving end. Although we get lots of presents and cash when we were children during reunions, somehow, it has affected my self-esteem. There is no way we can match their gifts or wealth. Giving them gifts is a futile exercise as we can only afford gifts that won’t be well appreciated.
Despite the fact that as early as September, we made our way to a far-off tiangge or bargain stalls that sell good clothes, bags, and housewares to buy our gifts, mostly for the children, December found us making last-minute trips to the malls and still we didn’t have gifts for everyone in the reunion. I gave gifts to my nearest neighbors, but none for my sisters in the church. And some of them gave gifts and I wasn’t able to reciprocate. I had wanted to show off my baking and cooking skills, but there were too many activities I ran out of time to bake my gifts. Not every co-worker in the church gave gifts, though. Only those who were well-off did, despite the fact that last year they gave gifts and hardly got anything in return. Trying to give gifts to everyone you know is a daunting task especially if you are financially challenged. So I take my hat off to people who have bags of gifts and well wrapped too during reunions.
It’s the thought that counts that it does not matter what one gives just as long as one has a gift, so they say. Even though they’ll just keep it in their cabinets for the rest of the year or give it away to someone else.