Monday, December 25, 2006

Ten things you can do today

Merry Christmas everyone! This is my Christmas day column at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today.

You probably woke up a little later than usual today. And if it weren’t for the fact that some relatives will most likely drop by at some point during the day or you need to be somewhere else in a few hours “perhaps your parents’ house for the traditional Christmas reunion” you probably would have preferred to curl up in bed some more and sleep off the hangover from last night’s revelry. But the kids in the house are most likely already creating a ruckus, running around playing with their new toys, so it is difficult to be grouchy today. It is Christmas.

It’s that one day in the year when we’re supposed to feel a little better despite the many uncertainties of the times we live in. A quick glance at your cellphone tells you that your inbox is overflowing with all sorts of Holiday greetings, some original, some creative, and the others a repeat of the same text messages that have been going around since yesterday.

So you roused yourself from bed making a mental note to yourself to make this day different from all the other days of the year. But how exactly? Someone once said “he who does not have Christmas in his heart will never find it under the tree or in someone else’s hug.” So here then are 10 things you can do today that may help rekindle that old warm feeling that is supposed to come with this joyous season.

Dress up in something that makes you feel great. As that carol says, “on we now our gay apparel.” You don’t have to put on your tux or a ball gown, but you can make an effort to put on clothes that makes you remember that today is a special day. Yes, despite everything, there is a lot to feel good about and that is more than enough reason to celebrate. If you are the religious type, then think of it as your way of celebrating His birthday. Otherwise, think of it as your way of being one with the rest of the Christian world in a collective party to celebrate peace, love and joy.

Play Christmas carols, some inspiring music, or any music that makes the house hum with the beat of the season. The one thing about enthusiasm and cheer is that it is like an airborne virus that you can catch if you expose yourself to it. So go ahead and play those old Ray Conniff albums and fill the house with the sound of Christmas.

Make sandwiches of the leftover ham and cheese from last night’s feast. These will probably be lying around ignored in the dining table for the rest of the day until someone finally has the heart to stuff them into the refrigerator where they will lay untouched for a few more days, if not weeks. With a few slices of apples and some strips of lettuce or cabbage, these can be transformed into delightful gourmet sandwiches. Wrap them in paper napkins of sandwich bags if you have them and give these to the streetchildren that are bound to come knocking at your car in some intersections of the Metro. These kids probably had to fight for a slice of ham and probably didn’t have queso de bola at their table last night so your leftovers will definitely be a welcome treat for them. Some of my friends and I started doing this since a couple of years back and it is something guaranteed to make you feel the real spirit of the season.

Reach out to someone you haven’t been had contact with for sometime now. It’s the time to mend broken friendships, forgive old hurts, or simply validate someone’s presence in your life. Write a letter, call, or send a text message. You have the perfect excuse to do it today—it is Christmas.

Spend some quality time with your loved ones today, especially the old and the young. Remember, quality time is measured by the receiver; so make an effort to do the things that truly mean something to the people you love, not the ones that you think has meaning to them. Often, this simply means spending time with the kids doing what they like best— either joining them in playtime or just being there with a smile on your face and without any trace of judgment for their countless demands. Or this could mean just spending time with your old folks listening to them drone on and on about the thousand and one concerns of the aging.

Go to church. You do not have to attend a mass or participate in a religious ceremony if you do not feel like it. Being inside a church for a few moments of silence and reflection really does wonders to the spirit. I particularly do not like hearing mass, but I have always found solitude inside a church, particularly on Christmas day.

Watch a movie with your family and support the Metro Manila Film Festival. I know the quality of Filipino movies has been on a general downward trend, but this is the best time to go watch a Filipino movie. The spirit of the season is a perfect excuse to enjoy even the most escapist plot or the most awful film output. The Philippine film industry is dying and needs all the support it can get from all of us. Films do serve an important role in strengthening our country’s collective soul and it would be tragic if we simply watch it gasp for its last dying breath without doing anything to help.

Make an inventory of the Christmas presents that you received and remember to thank the people who gave them. It has become very convenient to think that just because you already reciprocated the gesture by exchanging gifts with the person, there is no need to say thank you. A simple text message or a note would go a long way to validate the other person’s gesture.

Pray for our country. God knows we need all the divine intervention we can get in these uncertain times. It is sad that the animosity and our troubles are bound to resurface after the Christmas season and by the looks of it things are going to get more ugly in the political front in the next few weeks and months. But the Christmas season is a good time to remind ourselves that hope springs eternal. There is still hope for our country.

Cap the day by reading a good book that’s inspiring, or offers some moments of reflection. There are a number of really great books that does a good job of reminding us that living is still a wonderful gift that we need to be thankful for; that our lives need not be spent in drudgery and misery. And if reading is something that does not appeal to you, watch a movie in your DVD player that achieves the same purpose. It does not have to be “The Ten Commandments,” it can be something that makes you feel good and brings home the Christmas message in some way.

May you find meaning today. Maligayang Pasko!

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