Joy Sotto certainly has her hands full nowadays. She and her husband, Gian Sotto, a Quezon City councilor and the only son of Helen Gamboa and Sen. Tito Sotto, are now parents to five kids -- sons Hugo, Edrigu, Sandro, Rossano, and their baby girl and answered prayer, Amari Jiliana. With a large brood, the Yuletide season can be quite hectic, but Joy does her best to show the kids what makes Christmas meaningful.
The family tradition includes -- yep -- singing carols. One of the Sotto’s favorite family traditions is Advent Night, which happens on four consecutive Saturdays before Christmas Eve. “We start with dinner, and then we head to the living room where our Advent wreath is. Before the lighting of each candle, my husband would get his guitar, and we all sing praise and worship songs, and some Christmas carols. We then read a verse in the bible that would remind us of the true reason for the season, and then we talk to our kids about it. We light the candle on the wreath and end in prayer.”
They've made fake snow one Christmas to get into a festive mood. Usually, after the Advent Night, Joy prepares simple activities where every family member can participate. “We prepare a prayer jar, which is just writing down names of people we want to pray for, so we can pick a name daily and pray for that particular person. We’ve also made ornaments for the Christmas tree, baked Christmas cookies, made fake snow, had movie nights, and some storytelling, which you can make more fun by doing it inside a play tent, or creating one on a DIY puppet stage.”
They focus on gratitude instead of gifts. Kids love Christmas for the gifts they receive, and the Sotto boys are not so different. But Joy and her husband are not the type to give in to every whim their children want. They make sure that no matter the size of the gift, the kids consider it a blessing.
“We always encourage our kids to pray for what they want. It gives us an idea what to give -- as long as it is within the budget. Sometimes, when they open presents and it’s not what they prayed for, we explain to them the reason and try our best to impart the gratitude they should feel for whatever they receive, and to continue praying for what they want.”
Each child gets his Christmas moment. As tradition, Joy, Gian and the kids join the rest of the Sotto clan for a Christmas Eve celebration and head back to their own home at around 2 in the morning the next day, December 25. So the kids usually open their presents when they wake up a few hours later. | Joy says, “My husband and I make it a point to let each kid open one present at a time, because we want to see the reactions on their faces. They also give their gifts to each other one at a time, and it’s funny and heartwarming at the same time to see how happy they are to receive something from their siblings, no matter how small it is. They jump up and down for joy. It’s too cute for words!”
Joy is excited to include Amari, their “princess,” into their holiday traditions. “She will always be a great reminder to all of us that God gives and answers. She is really just the apple of our eye; her kuyas adore her so much. I think I will get carried away buying her girly stuff! I’ve been dreaming of this day for years.”
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She laughs when she remembers how she would take her boys shopping and they would always ask if they’re already finished yet, but now that she has Amari, she can’t wait to take her shopping, even if Amari is still stroller-bound. (For the curious, Joy uses an Aprica stroller, and she recently got Nuby teethers for Amari who is teething. See the rest of her baby breastfeeding essentials here.)
They teach the kids to be a blessing to others. Joy and Gian’s strong faith is something they hope to instill in their children also through actions as well. She shares, “A few times, we tried letting the kids go around our area and give goodies to the kids we see on the streets. This is just to remind them that we can always be a blessing in our own little ways.”