When You Can’t Afford Christmas

When You Can't Afford Christmas

There was a time when I dreaded Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas with all of my heart but there were times when we could barely afford it. And when you can’t afford Christmas, there’s panic in your heart. The Santa’s wish list, the decors, the celebration itself costs too damn much. I never thought that a tiny Christmas ham could cause so much pain in a mother’s heart.

Handing out inexpensive gifts to family members, anxious to see their reactions, hoping to see their faces light up, praying that they would love it. Hoping that my kids do not get disappointed too much that Santa has once again, botched up.

I think we’re good this Christmas but the thing about a mother’s heart is that there will always be that fear no matter how big the Christmas ham is. The anxiety that we wont be able to live up to the Christmas expectations. We want everybody to be excited! We want the magic for our kids to be the most magical of all mothereffing magic, we want big smiles and glitters, we want wine and laughter. We want Christmas to be grand! We want to hear our kids say “This is the best  Christmas  ever!!!”

Unfortunately. There will be times when it wont be the best Christmas ever. Sometimes, it wont even look like Christmas at all.

I was in high school and it was just me and my mom here in Cebu. We had no money, definitely no ham and no presents so we got out of the house on Christmas eve for fresh air. I don’t remember where else we went but I know we ended up at the house of a relative a million times removed.

Then 12 o’clock came.


When You Can't Afford Christmas

My mom and I went out of the house to watch the fireworks display. But really, we went out to escape the happy scene that our one million times removed relative and her family were making.

I hugged my mom so tight that I think I broke a rib. Broken ribs seemed easier to bear than watching my mom watch the exploding lights in the sky. Wondering how it was that she’s okay when I was dying in pain. Life can be so unfair.

When we went back inside, the one million times removed relative handed me a shirt that said “Your Trusted Construction Company” or something like that as a gift. The pain got so fucking real. The self pity. The hurt so deep, it chokes. And the shirt had nothing to do with it at all.

Life’s daily conundrum, I realized, is the best antidote to yesterday’s pain. I got over it.

Forgot about it.

Until I had kids.

Until I realized that the pain I felt that one specific Christmas night was nowhere near the pain that my mom felt over not being able to afford Christmas for us. For me.

I just want to go back to that moment and hug my mom so tight until her ribs break and tell her it’s okay.

I am okay.

We turned out okay.

And we will continue to be okay because we still have each other.

Then I look at my kids.

They will be okay, too.

They know that mom is doing her best and that Christmas isn’t even about an effing piece of ham or the Christmas tree. It’s not about the lights nor the gifts. Not being able to afford Christmas should not define how we celebrate the day.

And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

Luke 2:7

It’s about family and being there for each other even when you have nothing on the table.

So if you think you can’t afford Christmas presents nor decorations this year, shrug it off mama. It’s going to be alright.


I love you mommy.

With all of my heart.

And I’m buying you the biggest fucking ham this year.

Disclaimer: This post originally appeared on the now defunct Vanilla Housewife blog.

Your friendly motherblogger from Cebu. Healthline – Best Mom Blogs 2017, ESCooped – Cebu’s Top Family Blogger 2016, Top 10 Blogs Voice Boks Comedy Edition, Bloggys 2015 – Finalist, Family and Relationships Category, featured on BlogHer.com and HumorWriters.org. Jhanis also blogs at ThirdWorldKitchen.com.

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  1. Aw, love your ending and I will say I have most definitely been there, too. Christmas is just an expensive time of the year and even with money to spend I sometimes feel like it still just isn’t enough. Hugs and here is to a wonderful Christmas season no matter what now <3

  2. What I hate about this holiday is that other people pressure us to make it other than what it is — Jesus and his everlasting love for us. This year alone, we had to spend so much because someone thinks it’s how Christmas should be done. I so regret having said yes to it but I already did so no choice.

  3. Reading this was like going back in time to one Christmas that my folks were not able to “afford”. We all lived in my grandma’s house – my cousins upstairs while we share the ground floor with my grandma’s tenant (the ground floor was converted to two separate units). The tenants were all busy cooking food for noche buena, same as with my cousins upstairs. And I remember feeling lost that day because we had literally nothing to prepare, no food to cook apart from the dinner we just had. Come midnight, while it was humbling to receive food from the tenants and from my cousins, it was still painful to be at such a low place in the most wonderful time of the year. Quite ironic, isn’t it?

    I have never forgotten about that time. It became a reminder of what I never want to experience again. I never want my kid to go through that.

    Oh well, sorry to hijack your post. LOL! The things the mothers do eh? 😊

  4. Awww. This is the year I actually have an extra ham because of work. But we have had Christmases that were so terrible and we were so poor. Somehow the magic finds a way. We all turn out OK.

  5. Very touching story Mommy Jhan but I’m happy that you all turn out OK! I’m sure that experience nakatulong sa inyo that’s why you’re OK now. Sometimes, we work soooooo hard because there’s that one not-so-good moment that happened to us that we don’t want our kids would experience.

  6. I know I already read this before from your old blog but ako jud gibalik og basa tanan just to feel better. Hihi Btaw, relate kaayo ni for my family this year. It’s been a crazy 2017 for us (esp financially since we moved out) and now 2 days before Christmas, instead of preparing gifts, nagprepare kog explanation why “basin wala ray ihatag si Santa this year”.

    1. Hugs, Rose! Not being able to get gifts for the kids sure sucks (been there many times!) but one thing I’ve learned is that an honest discussion with them about money situation helps. I used to go to great lengths just so they will get a gift from Santa (plus gifts from mom and dad!) but it always left me exhausted and mag apas sa bayrunon the following year. I just want the cycle to stop. If wala mi money, then walay gift. Period. I’ve decided to just let that shit go. Hahahaha! I have not bought them anything except for bedroom slippers for my son (I’m also giving him a rice cooker kai xa man among cook and gikapoi na daw xa luto the traditional way!) and a cheapo headphones for my daughter (kai cge sila away sa iya kuya mag ilug headphones). I am not getting them anything else. And I have zero guilt. I’m just over this holiday commercialism. We do everything for our kids but it’s not good to let things like Christmas gifts stress us so much! So I hope you won’t let this get to you. It’s just one day of the year. 😉

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