Tuesday, December 23, 2014

In the spirit of the season


My December 23, 2014 column.
It will be Christmas in two days.  While the major media networks are still going overdrive in getting everyone all worked up for the big day, it looks like most of us have already peaked early on.  Traffic was still bad over the weekend, but not as bad as in previous weekends.  We were at a major mall Sunday afternoon to catch The Hobbit and it was manageable—we were surprised that we could actually stroll leisurely around the mall and get seats in a restaurant.  My hope is that we have gotten the commercial and materialist trimmings of the season out and the next few days can be focused on enjoying the real essence of Christmas.  Here’s hoping the next few days can be spent in relative peace and tranquility, with less of the usual aggravations.
For most of us, this means reliving certain traditions.  There are many things that are great about this season of joy, peace, and hope but the ones that are truly heartwarming are the efforts to sustain certain Filipino traditions even as we are buffeted by strong forces of change.  Traditions provide comfort and solace and security and in a lot of ways help define who we are.
And so, while we are tempted to get annoyed at the pesky tots that come to sing Christmas carols at our gate every single night in the last two weeks without fail, there is some comfort to be had in the thought that many of them really do so for the fun of it.  I know this for a fact because that’s exactly my experience when I was young; I really didn’t care about how much money my friends and I made singing “Kadadya Ning Taknaa” at every door in our neighborhood.  I remember my harassed grandmother offering a bounty just so I won’t slip out of the house at night to join my friends.  But caroling was part of my growing up experience and I guess it taught me something about life such as dealing with rejections and even planning and leading.
The theme for our Christmas celebration at work was “Paskong Pilipino sa Buong Mundo” and it was a great opportunity to celebrate Christmas with all the Filipino trimmings.  We had a parol contest that was inspired by the various festivals in the country.
The household help and the adolescents in the house have been waking up earlier than usual to attend the Misa de Gallo since December 16.  I am aware that their diligence is driven by perceived necessity—apparently, they’ve been told that being able to attend all nine masses would mean having their wishes granted—but then again, I am sure the experience would still yield a lesson or two, or at least a memory they could fondly recall when they are older.  I am sure our Noche Buena fare would be a repeat of the same food that we’ve always had in past Christmas Eve dinners but I don’t think anyone would complain; in fact, I am sure there would be questions if my grandmother’s famous callos does not make an appearance this year.  Christmas is about traditions—from the Noche Buena fare to the gift giving and the trip to the movies to catch any of the film festival entries.  But I also know that every generation adds its own little touches and I think that’s all good —it enriches the overall experience and strengthens the traditions themselves.  For instance, the gift-giving has generally become more novel as the younger set introduced new procedures and the games and activities have become more interactive—thanks to the wonders of technology.  Pinoy Henyo is now played with the help of an iPad and they’ve been able to devise buzzers and timers and other innovative touches that make people like me feel more ancient.  So I think we can all continue to take comfort in the fact that while traditions may get reinterpreted and readjusted to suit the growing complexities of current realities, the essence behind these traditions will continue to be there. 
I do like Christmas because people are generally nicer and kinder and while many people would find the temporary reduction in temperament levels hypocritical, it sure makes the world or at least this country seem a little bit more peaceful.  In the last few days, we’ve had less of the usual political wrangling that has come to characterize our daily existence.
So despite these uncertain times, Christmas helps us remember that there’s still hope in this world.  Christmas is a wonderful time to be reminded that there are always great things in store for all of us if we continue to have faith in God, in ourselves, and in others.
From our house to yours, Merry Christmas everyone!  May your Christmas be meaningful and filled with all the great things of the season.

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