DECEMBER 17, 2019

Deck the malls


Christmas has always been a homebound holiday — but sometimes the mall can provide a warm refuge for the season.

I’ve always wondered what it’s like to have a mom who wasn’t the best cook, or any type of cook at all. Mine is the kind who has multiple specialty dishes, who’s always trying new recipes she found online, who idolizes chefs and throws on her apron to bake shortbread cookies just because, who listens when I make a request (usually cream-based pasta) and has batches of it ready when I get home from school and now work.

I can’t imagine how drab life would be if she weren’t.

This obviously means that Christmastime is a whole feast for my family, especially since my mom’s sisters are also all skilled in the kitchen — one aunt would have baby back ribs and japchae on the menu, the other would have banana rum cake and kare-kare. Even when we would spend weeks in another country visiting with my diplomat aunt, they would find ways to prepare a home-cooked Filipino-style noche buena and media noche, including sinigang. Nothing, not exhaustion or even distance, would get in the way of our little tradition.

All of this is to say that recently, when we’ve been feeling like a change of pace, we’ve decided that foregoing all the kitchen theatrics might just do the trick. Last year, we ended up booking a room in a hotel with easy access to a mall. We had an early dinner in a wonderful restaurant, then got takeout for when midnight came around: a giant pizza, some sushi, a mango cake. It wasn’t any less full of love, and it wasn’t any less special.

The holidays are something you go home for — the best excuse to avoid traffic and crowds in public places. But there’s also something magical about going somewhere, taking in all the lights, and seeing everyone make do with what they have and make the best of particularly hard times so they can still spread some love and cheer to the people they care about.

Malls have their own Christmas traditions, whether it’s meet-and-greet sessions with Santa, sales and bazaars, or an elaborate and huge Christmas tree right in the middle where crowds converge. There are endless activities to enjoy, and even more food to try. It’s one day of the year that’s about the joy of giving, and the infinite possibility of a granted wish. And spending it in a place that might not be as intimate, but is all the more boisterous for it doesn’t take away any sincerity and affection from such an important holiday. After all, it’s about the company you keep and the way you choose to celebrate it — and doing something different just means new traditions to share and keep.