Dread and stress. Someone should throw that in the modern Christmas song.  And frenzy should substitute merry. What is it about Christmas now?  Sometimes it feels so burdensome and we scurry about like little mice. Because the Christmas list keeps getting longer, endless even.  Someone next door just sent cake. Now I have to get him something too.  Ten of those, ten of these, same gifts for everyone, just so I can wrap up my list. Never mind that there’s arsenic in that toy. I’m flinching from all the red envelopes to fill and 13th month pays, or the electric fans and toasters I’ve yet to buy for the raffle.  And then there’s agonizing over the godchildren list.  Every season, I add another year to a name.  How many years today from that Christening?  And yet when was the last time I saw them? Whoever started the “mano po ninang” tradition that says my role in life is to make sure there’s a present under the tree. I’d say the only people merry this season are appliance stores, toy stores and bakers.

Then there’s shrinking from another Christmas party.  Who fancies getting stuck again in EDSA? Or get unstuck after an hour and still be anxious about judgment greeting you at the door.  And having passed scrutiny, you’ll have to endure hours of scrutinizing others. Or worse, tacky music.   My friend is contemplating moving homes, as she has to listen to Gangnam Style every night. And please, not another lechon (maybe one more.)  I’d say the glutton visits every Christmas,  right before the shepherds come and lingers up to the 3 kings.

It feels like every year, I go on Christmas auto-pilot. Checklist: (1) Christmas list; (2) the obligatory 13th month and company party; (3) show face at the high school, law school, and dive get together. Check. Maybe we should go off autopilot and ask why?

Because what became of the joy of giving?  Now it seems like misery. It hurts the pocket, time, and relationships too.  Try giving coins to the boy begging for “Pamasko” on the street. If he doesn’t throw it back at you, he’d demand for more. After all, it’s Christmas. But what really does “Pamasko” mean? Isn’t it absurd how we’ve made a verb out of Christmas and it is Christmas in kind? How did it get from generosity towards those who have served us, to now an empty envelope with the name of the Garbage Collector? As though you’re bound to being Santa on Christmas. Never mind being jolly, just make sure the toys and goodies are in the sleigh. 

Somehow, a time of giving thanks has morphed into the mindless giving of presents.  The message of hope has become an obligation for red envelopes and crispy bills. And celebrating the joy because a Savior is born, has mutated to lavish decorations of polar bears and snow in the tropics, and the nth Christmas party of the year.

Oh I do have a fondness for carols and children singing, the Nutcracker ballet, lanterns and lighting candles, the scent of pine, and how everyone has suddenly more love to give. I relish family traditions, and will be a willing glutton for the family’s traditional Callos or my aunt’s amazing potato salad. Even Santa Claus has a space in my Christmas.  But I wish my children thought of him with wonder and mystery, like Father Christmas in Narnia, and not like the pudgy man with the Coke bottle and a red sack.  I’m dreaming of a manger scene that my child can perceive with wonder and truly sense Christmas. I wish for homemade or thoughtful gifts, the ones you have given thought about. And please don’t feel bound to give me a gift, just because I’m on the list or I’ve already sent you one. And finally, if I’m once again the weird aunt and godmother who sent you a handmade gift, I hope you understand why.

And so, it’s a few more weeks of the season. May you have more joy and less dread, more peace and less stress. Centuries ago, they made merry because the light returned. And if you remember, we’re celebrating “for unto us the Christ Child is born.” And so, may the rest of the season be merry and bright. And may all your Christmases be Light.


One Comment

  1. Bea

    I feel the same way about Christmas.

    I remember being young and receiving just some hankies, stuff like that, from my yaya, a few gift-shop tokens from my classmates, and just really looking forward to Noche Buena– the food, the family, etc. The 12midnight burst of happiness and hugs!

    I would stand in front of our Christmas tree at night, marvel at how beautiful it was, and sing Christmas songs. We had a belen that I would wonder about (what the eff is a manger? Being from the tropics, I imagined giving birth under a tree was comfortable enough), but at the same time constantly rearrange.

    Today, there’s all this pakyaw plastic stuff from China. I get random generic presents that have been refused by even our helpers (what does that say about our materials glut? Would never happen a decade ago). It’s all so thoughtless…

    I’ve been trying to tell people to not give me stuff (it’s a constant struggle to pare down) or give secondhand things, old books, homemade things. I have a shop, and try to help people keep things simple, but I have my share of frenzied moms who are snappy and mean!

    Getting nothing at all is almost a luxury now. Just dinner is a luxury now. Good food, good conversation, relaxing. Creating traditions that will keep future generations happy during the holidays! Everyone will strange me, but I am sure hoping oil prices will rise enough to halt all the petrochemical-based plastic crap, bags, wrapping, halt all the traffic, and stop feeding the Christmas machine.

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