How Migrant Domestic Worker Moms Celebrate Christmas Day & New Year’s Day in Hong Kong

Christmas Day - often referred to as the most wonderful time of the year - is upon us! Beyond the festive tinsel and dazzling lights, the joy and warmth of being with family and close friends is what makes this holiday extra special and memorable.

How do Migrant Domestic Workers (MDW) celebrate Christmas Day and New Year’s Day in Hong Kong (HK)? Many of them, being mothers, struggle with not being able to be home on these important days with their children. We asked 4 MDWs - Betina, Marrie, Camille and Deiby - who are mothers and this is what they shared with us! One of them, Deiby, was even born on Christmas Day!

BETINA BANGSOYAO, FILIPINO, MOM OF 3 CHILDREN (15, 10 & 7 YEARS OLD)

How will you be celebrating Christmas Day and New Year’s Day in HK? 

After a year full of changes and uncertainty, I am simply excited to celebrate with my family via video calls, listen to mass and a simple ‘salo-salo’ (gathering) with my karate family to celebrate Christmas. Of course, since the pandemic is not over and it's been a trying year for many, my celebration might look different this year. 

I will encourage my family to watch me on YouTube Live for the upcoming MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) tournament. After Christmas, I’ll probably be enjoying my holiday inside the ring, so I actually make my Christmas a great time to mix things up and try new things apart from hiking, biking and so on.

How did you celebrate Christmas Day and New Year’s Day before you came to HK to work?

During Christmas Eve evening, as we are Christians, we go to church to listen to the last ‘simbang gabi’ or the Christmas Eve mass as a family. This is followed by a midnight feast, called ‘Noche Buena’. It is a big open house celebration with family, friends and neighbors dropping in to wish everyone a merry Christmas. 

It is filled with celebrations, exchanging of gifts, parlour games and the most enjoyable part is cooking different delicacies. We slaughter pigs and chickens to make ‘Lechon’ (roast pigs and chickens). As a Primitive Igorot (indeginous mountaineer) in my country, we invite everyone to celebrate the gift of life together as a form of thanksgiving.

When I was in The Philippines, as an active youth leader and advisor, I usually gathered the youth to go for carolling. We used our guitars and tambourines to sing Christmas songs in all the households. In exchange for that, we were given a (monetary) blessing that came from their hearts. The proceeds went to running a big Christmas party, preparing gifts for our less fortunate ‘kailian’ or ‘kababayans’ within the ‘barangay’ (people from the same village) - especially for the children to make their Christmas Day merrier. 

As an advisor, I usually told the children and young people that everyday is Christmas Day, and it's better to give than to receive and “to serve with love”. This was how I celebrated Christmas with my family, friends and community.

When was the last time you celebrated Christmas Day and New Year’s Day with your children?

As many say, there is no heart you couldn’t measure deep inside a mother. So I am proud to share that I am a mother of three children. I have 2 daughters aged 15 and 10, and my only son is 7 years old. I flew here to HK when my baby boy was only 15 months old. The last time I spent Christmas with them was in 2015. I have been longing to be with them for almost six years. 

Every Christmas Day is a big challenge for me. As a mother not with her family, it’s not only on Christmas Day that’s challenging but also on the children’s special days. As an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker), the only possible means of communication is via video calls. For six years, my love and hugs have been on the screen, and I miss them terribly and so very much. 

Being a mother I must be resilient, and yes, I have to. And I am blessed to have a big family who embrace them on my behalf. I always comfort myself that ‘sacrifice’ is the essence of love. 

Do you know how your children will be celebrating Christmas Day and New Year’s Day?

They would probably spend quality time together at their granny’s house, and have a simple celebration with their uncles, aunties and cousins. 

What would be the best Christmas and new year present for you?

To win a flight ticket home to have a long holiday in The Philippines with my family.

How does it feel to be away from your children this Christmas?

I feel like an empty cup, trying to fill, but don’t know which ingredients to mix in.

Why is Christmas special for you and your family?

It's because it is a celebration of life, joy and happiness - and only in your family do you really feel the warmth of love. As thanksgiving, we spend time doing something fun together. Love is where the heart is - faith and happiness with all the care and understanding. 

MARRIE ALLOW, INDONESIAN, MOM OF 2 CHILDREN (25 & 10 YEARS OLD)

How will you be celebrating Christmas Day and New Year’s Day in HK? 

I will celebrate Christmas with friends by taking part in worship and Christmas celebrations in the church. 

How did you celebrate Christmas Day and New Year’s Day before you came to HK to work?

Since I was a child, I have celebrated Christmas. This is the intergenerational/continuous tradition in my village. Christmas moments are always special because it’s the time for all (extended) family members to gather, worship, have meals together and share our love. 

When was the last time you celebrated Christmas Day and New Year’s Day with your children?

The last time was when I had my annual leave during/for Christmas in 2018. 

Do you know how your children will be celebrating Christmas Day and New Year’s Day?

They will make Christmas cakes and cookies - at least 10 types! - to be shared with neighbours or guests who visit our home on Christmas Day. They will also play and sing along Christmas songs and carols at home. 

What would be the best Christmas and new year present for you?

The best gift to me would be that my children, all my family members and I are healthy and COVID-19 will end soon. 

CAMILLE GRACE ALCALA, FILIPINO, MOM OF 2 CHILDREN (15 & 8 YEARS OLD)

How will you be celebrating Christmas Day and New Year’s Day in HK? 

My Christmas Day and New Year's Day start with video calls from my family. My Roukan (karate) family here in Hong Kong usually holds a Christmas party every year. This New Year’s Day I will spend it with some of my close friends.

How did you celebrate Christmas Day and New Year’s Day before you came to HK to work?

My family always went for Misa de Gallo (Christmas Mass). We usually spent Christmas Day and New Year’s Day with my parents.

When was the last time you celebrated Christmas Day and New Year’s Day with your children?

The last time I celebrated Christmas Day and New Year’s Day with my kids was in 2014.

Do you know how your children will be celebrating Christmas Day and New Year’s Day?

My kids will celebrate Christmas Day and New Year’s Day with my parents. They will go to church and my mom usually cooks their favourite food. They always call and greet me.

What would be the best Christmas and New Year present for you?

The best present for me will be to spend my Christmas and New Year with my kids and my parents. But because of the pandemic, I can't go home so for me having video calls from them will be the best present.

How does it feel to be away from your children this Christmas?

It’s hard to be away from my kids especially when it’s been 6 years since I last spent Christmas with them. Even though they understand, physical contact like hugs and kisses are the things I can't give to them. Hopefully next year I can spend Christmas with them.

Why is Christmas special for you and your family?

Christmas is important to us because as Catholics it's the celebration of Christ's birth.

DEIBY D.RARANTA, INDONESIAN, MOM OF 2 ADULT DAUGHTERS (23 & 22 YEARS OLD)

How will you be celebrating Christmas Day and New Year’s Day in HK? 

I will celebrate Christmas in church. 

How did you celebrate Christmas Day and New Year’s Day before you came to HK to work?

My family and I usually celebrate Christmas by sharing blessings with parents, sisters and brothers, and neighbours. We also celebrate by attending Advent Sundays events (such as Family Christmas Tree worship and other Christmas events and worship). 

We planned, budgeted, and prepared little by little the Christmas cakes/cookies, drinks, and gifts since January. When Christmas arrived,  the first thing we did: attend church with joy and gratitude for the grace of salvation by Jesus Christ through His birth in our hearts and also to the world. 

When was the last time you celebrated Christmas Day and New Year’s Day with your children?

The last time was in 2012. 

Do you know how your children will be celebrating Christmas Day and New Year’s Day?

The children usually celebrate Christmas with their father and they will continue with the same tradition. They have already listed what they needed for Christmas. In terms of expenditure, it’s usually increased during this period since the working Mama (that’s me!) would send extra money. 

What would be the best Christmas and new year present for you?

The best gift will be a sincere prayer/best wishes from friends, family, and loved ones - for us to be joyful and happy during Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and so on. By the way, I was also born on Christmas Day!


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