December 26, 2005
Christmas is a very special religious holiday in the Philippines. The birth of Jesus is clearly the reason to celebrate Christmas in a nation that’s still 90% conservative Catholics. Like everywhere else, the annual religious observance is also a time for giving and sharing. However, Christmastime and New Year are two of the holidays most definitely associated with food in the Philippines and everywhere as well. I’ve never experienced more cooking and eating than during the holiday season. Although we don’t observe Thanksgiving Day in the Philippines, I must say, in a way New Year’s day is it’s counterpart, because it’s during this day that we look back and give thanks for all the blessings we received the entire year and it’s also a time to look forward to the another bountiful and blessed year. It’s during New Year’s eve when we set and fill our tables with lots of food, with the belief that food represents bounty. Food, overflowing on the table on the first day of the new year, assures us that this blessing will continue everyday of the year. One of the treats associated with the holidays is embutido. For as long as I could remember, my mother made this ground pork roll during Christmastime, which would last until the New Year. The traditional morcon and embutido logs when sliced into rounds are also appropriate for the season’s requirement for “anything round” on the table. Many Filipinos still believe that gathering 13 kinds of round fruit will bring good luck to the family and household. Just as many still practice the traditional fireworks, which my father was quite fond of. This belief of setting off fireworks to drive away evil spirits, was passed on to us by the Chinese. We even had a cannon that my father made of steel, which he fired on New Year’s eve. For us and the many village kids, New Year’s eve just wasn’t complete without it, so for many, many years, this was part of the celebrations. But with the struggling economy and inflation, more people seem to be getting more practical and are spending their hard-earned money on food rather than fireworks. Fireworks may lose it’s appeal one day but food and the love of it never will. Embutido has always been my favorite. I remember getting excited about eating lunch and dinner everytime my mother served it. I would also request for it pan-fried a bit, which was so good to eat with rice. This year, I made it once again, reliving those past memories when I used to watch my mother make embutido and morcon during the holidays. I could still hear her ask me to get a #20 roll of string from our store to tie the morcon with. Memories of food are as special as the meaning of Christmas and New Year holidays. Wishing you all a blessed and bountiful year!