My name is Zach Gabriel Tan. I am 9 ½ years old and in fourth grade. I am Filipino, and I live in Australia with my parents and three-year-old sister Zoe. I was born in the Philippines, and moved to Singapore when I was four. In March 2009, we moved to Australia, so I’m going to tell you about enjoying Christmas in three different countries.

How do we celebrate Christmas in the Philippines? In the Philippines parents wake the children up at midnight on Christmas Eve to enjoy the Noche Buena. Noche Buena is the midnight feast, and it’s like a midnight party. Other family members come and bring food, and we eat together. After the Noche Buena feast, we open our gifts. We are allowed to stay awake until early morning only on Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

In Singapore Christmas is celebrated differently. Actually, Christians are the ones that celebrate Christmas most. Their biggest event is the Chinese New Year. But the main street, Orchard Road, is well decorated and lighted. It is the tourist area. Singapore is a wealthy country so there are lots of gifts and toys to buy in stores. At home, we set up a small Christmas tree in the corner of the living room and have lots of food too. We still do our Filipino tradition of eating Noche Buena and opening gifts at midnight. In 2006, which was our first Christmas in Singapore, we went on a biking trip in Pulau Ubin, which is one of the islands near Singapore. Then we ended the day with a party at a friend’s home. At church we have a Christmas program and many of our older church members, whom we call aunty and uncle, give the kids lots of small Christmas gifts.

In Australia we don’t have snow at Christmas, because it’s summer and very, very hot. Snow comes in July, so we have “Christmas in July,” which is kind of weird. Here we don’t have Noche Buena, but we do have a Christmas lunch with friends. We go to the beach to cool down, and oh boy, is it crowded with people! The smell of “barbi” (barbeque) is everywhere. We play games at the beach. In the city area there are lots of Christmas decorations. Some stores in the city have Nativity scenes and Santa’s workshop decorations.

People buy gifts as early as July (normally there is a huge toy sale everywhere in July and August), and then the store keeps it for the customers until December. I get to choose the toy I like, but I have to wait for Christmas Eve before Mom gets it. At home, we have a Christmas tree and celebrate our Filipino traditions. At church our choir Christmas songs. We also have fun lessons and games at Sabbath School. This year the children’s department will be in charge of the main worship service. I am practicing “Angels We Have Heard on High” on the piano. This year our church will host a pre-Christmas dinner, and I’m looking forward to it.

I am so blessed to have experienced life in three different countries at my age. But how one celebrates Christmas is not very important. The gifts are not really important either. What is important is that Jesus was born in Bethlehem to save us from our sins.