Christmas is for kids

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By Arnold Alamon

Wrapped in Grey

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

CHRISTMAS is for kids. I know that now after sensing the luminescent glow of the passing seasons get dimmer and dimmer with each drab and weary year. Yes, it sounds like a statement of the unsatisfied and the old, the bah-humbug of a scrooge made thornier and ascerbic by age.

Let us just be clear. Not everybody loves this time of the year. If there is any true value to this season, it is the much needed reprieve from a year of work. But this season also ushers in a different kind of labor which can be equally taxing.

First is the task to consume. All year round we have been scrimping and the holidays are the cue when we let loose all those repressed consumerist desires. There is something about the life-affirming power of the peso spent for the literal object of one's desire that somehow makes the drudgery of the daily commute to work all year round, and the general futility of one’s labor, forgotten.

But the mass hysteria that is generated by this consumerist revenge also makes for the sudden appearance of people and cars that seems to have been churned out from the bowels of the earth. Where have all these people come from? Where have all these vehicles been hidden all these time? Like gremlins, it seems that the population of the metropolis triples every holiday season and so do their vehicles. And it’s not that the people from the provinces suddenly converged in Metro Manila because the case is true in Cebu and Cagayan de Oro for example.

But the emotional labor that Christmas and the New Year bring is another story altogether.

If there are finals for the career of parenting, then it takes place during this time of the year. Mothers brave the traffic and long queues at the grocery and toys stores just to have the perfect celebration within a meager budget. Recipes are exchanged and tried and many will have cuts and burns preparing all those dishes.

Fathers will await with bated breathe news about an across-the-board government bonus that will never come. So the recourse is a quick loan from the local cooperative to help tide over the family festivities that come with costs.

Comes with the territory of reaching a certain age is the passing of loved ones. Many media noche and nochebuena meals will have an empty chair or two. In between the gaiety and drunken stupor, many of us adults will mark these occasions to remember our dead loved ones who, in their time, put on the greatest Christmas show for us kids. It is a demographic trap that only the children are exempted from for their age still shields them from the specter of mortality that we older ones get closer to everyday.

And this reverie that begins during Christmas will be rounded out by the New Year celebrations. The one-two existential punch of these holidays is sure to knock us out adults, not just physically but also emotionally. It is after all another year in a country that never seems to change year-in-and-out. The New Year brings in the occasion for accounting our growing frustrations in life and if not, the few blessings that come our way.

It has been put forward by one of the founding fathers of Modern Sociology that the annual holiday seasons provide us a good look about the health of a given society by noting the incidences of suicides during this time.

And from the mid-19th century to now, the trend has not changed. More people take their lives during this time since feelings of belongingness are heightened by the season according to Emile Durkheim. If a particular spike in suicide rates takes place at this time, then this indicates the weak social bonds that exist in a society.

So beneath all the pomp and frenzy, Christmas is actually scarier than Halloween. What makes this season so sociologically interesting is how all of us participate to make this unapparent. We don’t speak about the challenges it brings, the existential moment that it ushers, and the sadness that comes with it as we pine for loved ones who have passed on. Instead, we put on together the greatest show of abundance and optimism. What for?

It is for the children. So that when they grow up and become adults like us, they can remember and smile about the best Christmases ever staged by their own elders, who, in turn, also reminisce about their own innocent Christmases amid the unstoppable existential horrors of adulthood.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on December 24, 2013.


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