My lovely lola always had this tradition of letting me wrap her gifts as early as November. One yuletide season several years ago, she got tired of it and realized how it was so much easier to just hand out cash-filled envelopes.
And so by the first few weeks of December (she no longer needed to rush), she’d ask me to buy those red Chinese envelopes to use for her Christmas gifts.
In 2003, when I first started to bring my girlfriend to our family Christmas Day lunch, my grandmother handed me one of her red Chinese envelopes, addressed to me and my girlfriend, Bunny.
It had a lovely dedication handwritten by my grandmother, who suffered from a stroke when she was younger, got her right side paralyzed and since then had to do things using the left side of her body, including writing.
We instantly extracted the bills, added them to our wallets, and included the red envelope in our scrapbook.
In 2004, Bunny and I once again received another red envelope from my grandmother, but this time, someone else had clearly written the dedication. The amount of money inside was also less than last year’s. Nevertheless, the cash went straight to our wallets while the red envelope went directly to our scrapbook.
In 2005, my grandma asked me to write her dedications on the red envelopes. I was, of course, glad to help although it felt a little weird writing her dedication for Bunny and me.
It was even weirder when on Christmas Day itself, she handed me an envelope with a dedication I myself wrote. That year, due to hard times, the amount of the money inside was even less than the previous year’s. And so Bunny and I taped the red envelope—complete with the money inside—in our scrapbook. I appreciated how my grandmother was giving us so much even if she didn’t have a job and times were hard.
In the middle of 2006, I had my own hard times in the finance department. There were several times when I took out the bills from the red envelope and put it in my wallet for reserve.
One day, I had no choice but to spend the money. It broke my heart to finally use it, after stopping myself for so long. I was guilty about spending it, but I felt a little better knowing I used it on something I really needed and that I used it only when I was left with no other choice.
In Christmas 2006, my grandma totally scrapped the whole envelope idea and just handed us cash.
Christmas is just around the corner like a 7-Eleven. My grandmother hasn’t asked me to buy her red envelopes or write her dedications yet, but I’m not really waiting for that.
I’ve been busy hunting for the best-looking red envelope for my grandmother this Christmas. This year, I’m the one giving her a red envelope. A really thick one packed with bills and lots of unconditional love from her grandson.
As published in the December 19, 2007 issue of 2bU!, the youth section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer