The sound of the firecracker was loud enough to catch everyone's attention. Including the dog. But after a second or two, everything went back to normal.

Normal though is not a word to be used during a Filipino Family Reunion. Let alone one done on Christmas Day. There are certain rules and guidelines one must be aware of, to hold such an event. Here are some;

1. Ornate Christmas decorations are not required. Most of us Filipinos, appreciate even the simplest of decors. A small wreath would do. And since Mistletoes are not indigenous to the Philippines, the concept of using one may give you the strangest of reactions. (But... we're cousins!)

2. A Karaoke machine IS a requirement. Singing is one trait that most, if not all, Filipinos carry. Actually, the Love of singing since some, including myself, can't carry a tune.

3. Note that a family in the Philippines extends not to just the immediate father, mother, daughter and two sons image but also to the first cousin on the mother's side, her son and her husband. As well as the best friend of each relative under the age of twenty.

4. With food, traditional Christmas meals comprise of Ham, Queso de Bola (Gouda Cheese), Bibinka (rice cakes), and San Miguel Beer. One can deviate from this as long as there is enough food for everybody. To gauge how much food to prepare, just follow this simple formula;
a. Calculate how much food is too much.
b. Double it.

Please note that Filipino reunions usually start at around lunchtime and end past bedtime. So, lunch, afternoon snacks, dinner, and after dinner meals must be prepared.

5. With the number of people attending and the length of time of the event, a small program must be organized. The program must contain the following;

a. Small kids singing Christmas Carols.
b. Party games such as Musical Chairs, The Pinata, and Bring Me. Bring me is a game where the host would yell out a random object and the first person to bring it wins.
c. The obligatory giving of money to kids under the age of twenty by people over the age of forty. To receive the money, the kid must correctly name the relative giving the money.
d. Mahjong and card games. (This one will last long past dinner).

6. Also, a small room must be prepared for mahjong and card games. Beer and liquor must be in ample supply.

7. Another room for kids must be prepared containing video games, toys, and whatnot. Separate the Santa believers from the non-believers.

8. The telephone can only be used after relatives from the US and other countries have called and talked to each person in attendance.

9. During the reunion, any rumor heard or discovered, such as the crack addict cousin who suddenly is thinking of becoming a priest, can only be discussed after New Year.

10. Gift giving is not required. But just in case, Cash is the most appreciated gift.

11. Prepare take-out bags for the left overs.

These are just some of the nuances (albeit, the important ones) one must be aware of to have a Philippine Family Christmas Reunion. It may be daunting but everyone in attendance will truly appreciate the effort. And nothing beats waving goodbye to a ton of relatives carrying the last of your food with a smile in your heart.

This is for The Ninjagirls Christmas Special

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