Making a list

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By Erma M. Cuizon

Sun.Star Essay

Saturday, December 21, 2013

OUR celebratory culture of carols and other songs, dances and pageants during Christmas is more for children. And gift-giving is what they anticipate. They would begin to know what they want for Christmas at an early age, but almost secretly and not in a list made known to others.

My kasambahay gives the impression that in the towns nobody makes a personal list of desired gifts to give to parents and godparents.

“Sus, naman, kabaga sab ana og nawong,” she commented when asked whether the children back home in the towns would tell favorite relatives what they want for Christmas. Children do ask for pinaskohan shyly from godparents but not to say exactly what, unless they’re asked.

In the towns, Christmas business is not as flourishing as in the malls in the city, there’s not much choice for gift givers carrying a list during Advent and on Christmas. Most Christmas gifts in the rural areas, say, for godchildren, are money that the children could use to choose their own gifts to buy.

In fact, some few years back, children were a bit shy about Christmas gifts, even if they’re fully expectant of the good cheer of the season. But there’s now the practice in a fun game of making a list of desired gifts for givers to fill up.

One Christmas Eve, the family party was in the opening of gifts. As usual, my younger siblings got their gifts of chocolates and candies inside socks hanging in the Christmas tree. At past midnight after the party, I said “Goodnight,” to my brother Boye who at 5 was always in great anticipation of gifts during Christmas although a bit shy about it.

Next Christmas, I’ll hang baskets, he said. Seriously but quietly, he continued “Gagmay ra ang masulod sa socks,” he smiled and turned to his side to sleep.

As the eldest child, I always helped Grandma, my mother and the boy helper put up the Christmas tree and the glittering lights for the children. But the gifts for the boys my parents would put under the tree a day before Christmas Eve.

The tree, which was an actual pine tree hauled from somewhere in the mountains southwest of Cebu given to my father by a friend, had been put up earlier.

One night in the season, I stayed up later than my parents on Dec. 23 to finish wrapping the gifts at dawn of the day before the opening of the gifts on Dec. 24. Everybody else had gone to bed as I finished wrapping the last gifts at 2 in the morning so that when the young siblings would wake up, they’d see the lighted tree and the wrapped gifts under it. As the eldest sibling, I told them the gifts were given by Santa Claus who flew by deep in the night in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeers, swinging right into the house while everybody was sleeping.

I was tightening the ribbon on the last box of gifts when I noticed that someone from the boys’ room was standing behind the door, watching me, since when? It was my brother Dennis who caught a familiar Santa preparing the gifts! Quickly, I told him to go back to sleep, and he did without a word but with a bit of a smile.

The Christmas season went through joyfully, as usual. Thank God for Dennis, he didn’t tell the younger siblings what he had found out. He gave them their own chance to discover that not Santa but their loved ones gave the gifts.

When the siblings grew up, I went on to the story for them of the gift-givers, the Three Kings, or the Magi—wise men from Persia, Saba, and Tarsus named Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar who brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh as precious metal, perfume and anointing oil for baby Jesus in Bethlehem—an honor for a king.

The siblings live their own lives now and they have their own ways to honor a King. They’ve read that young Caspar’s gift of gold symbolizes Christ’s mortality and purity, middle-aged Melchior’s myrrh representing humility and truth, Balthasar’s perfume signifying prayer and sacrifice.

Grown up married and living outside the country, the siblings now make a list and check it twice on Advent and the Christmas Eve.

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Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 22, 2013.


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