The American Dream Mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey, recently underwent a festive transformation as it played host to “Pasko in America: The Philippine Christmas Experience” for its inaugural celebration. This event, organized by Fernando “Nanding” Mendez, aimed to provide Filipinos living in the United States with an authentic Christmas experience away from home, while also sharing the Filipino Christmas spirit with the East Coast community.
The American Dream Mall, known as the second-largest mall in the USA, was adorned with vibrant Filipino Christmas decorations, creating an atmosphere that transported attendees to the heartwarming ambiance of a Filipino holiday celebration. The event attracted attendees not only from New Jersey and New York but also from neighboring states, showcasing the strong sense of community among Filipinos in the region.
The threefold mission of “Pasko in America” was outlined by its visionary, Fernando Mendez. First and foremost, it aimed to provide Filipinos with a genuine Christmas experience, allowing them to reconnect with their cultural traditions and create nostalgic memories. Secondly, it aimed to act as a conduit for sharing the Filipino Christmas spirit, allowing attendees from different backgrounds to learn about and appreciate the rich traditions of the Philippines. Lastly, it aimed to bridge the gap between the Filipino diaspora and their homeland, fostering a sense of community and cultural pride.
The event featured a diverse array of activities that catered to both children and adults. Vendors showcased Filipino products, allowing attendees to explore and purchase items that reflected their cultural heritage. There were also interactive craft activities, such as parol (Christmas lantern) making, “pabitin” (a traditional game where prizes are hung on a string), and Christmas wreath drawing and coloring books. These activities not only entertained the attendees but also served as a way to educate and familiarize them with Filipino customs and traditions.
One of the highlights of the event was a heartwarming presentation by the cast of the recently concluded Broadway show “Here Lies Love,” led by Arielle Jacobs. Local artists from New York and New Jersey joined the cast, enchanting the audience with their captivating Christmas carols and adding a touch of Broadway magic to the celebration. The performance created a sense of unity and showcased the talent within the Filipino community.
Attendees expressed their delight and gratitude for the event. Annie, a resident of Hoboken, New Jersey, shared her experience, saying, “The American Dream Mall is a wonderful place to celebrate and reunite with fellow Filipinos, family, and friends. We are proud to showcase our Filipino culture to other races here in the US, considering the substantial Filipino population in NJ and NY.” Another attendee shared her joy, saying, “We are happy that such a gathering took place here. I am even happier because I want my children to embrace and appreciate our Filipino culture, especially during the holidays. It truly brings back memories of home.”
“Pasko in America” not only left attendees with cherished memories but also fostered a sense of community and cultural pride. It served as a reminder of the strong Filipino presence in the United States and the importance of preserving and sharing traditions with future generations. As the event came to a close, attendees left with a renewed hope for future celebrations that would continue to bridge the gap between the Filipino diaspora and the rich traditions of their homeland.
Source: The Manila Times