Beyond the ‘superficial glitter’

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Monday, December 23, 2013

A FEW weeks ago, some entities announced they would forego their Christmas parties and to donate the money saved from the move to survivors of super typhoon Yolanda in some parts of the Visayas. The announcement sounded noble at first glance, but not on closer scrutiny.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s no question about the need for us to sympathize with those who were victimized by tragedies, whether these were brought by Yolanda or by a magnitude-7.2 earthquake. Donating money to the survivors can even be a good Christmas present for the survivors.

What I wanted to know, however, is whether the cancellation of the Christmas parties meant the non-celebration by these firms of Christmas altogether. I was just hoping that even without a Christmas party, these entities will still celebrate Christmas in other ways, and that their employees will still feel the spirit of the season.

My objection has always been the linkage between money and the celebration of Christmas. Meaning that we can save money and yet still celebrate the Christmas in certain ways. Christmas celebrations, after all, are supposed to be beyond the material or commercial.

Pope Benedict XVI put it well in his Christmas message for Christmas of 2011:

"Today Christmas has become a commercial celebration, whose bright lights hide the mystery of God's humility, which in turn calls us to humility and simplicity. Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light."

The essence of Christmas is not material but spiritual and ethereal. On this, the Pope referred the faithful to the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, whose entrance, called the “Door of Humility,” is so low one has to bend to go through it.

Here’s how the Pope put it in a previous CNN report:

"If we want to find the God who appeared as a child, then we must dismount from the high horse of our 'enlightened' reason...In this spirit let us celebrate the liturgy of the holy night, let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped."


The tradition in our family is for us to decorate the house for Christmas a few days after All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. My wife was able to follow that tradition this year, promptly setting up the Christmas tree in our sala and hanging Christmas decors on the walls and doors of our house. The exterior, my turf, remained bare, however.

For some reasons or another, I just didn’t have the sense of urgency to complete my Christmas chores this time around. I did it only early this month. Maybe the calamities that hit us in the latter part of this year affected the way I prepared for Christmas 2013.

Somebody told me that she felt this year’s celebration is rather subdued. She said that she noticed that less decorative lights were mounted this Christmas compared with that of 2012.

I can’t really say if that is true. There certainly is no surefire way to measure the intensity of the Christmas celebration. Perhaps this is all psychological. The feeling of a subdued celebration may have been churned by previous announcements about establishments cancelling their Christmas parties and donating the money saved to victims of Yolanda.

But I say that in our family, the ritual is still being observed and with the same “fanfare.” Then again, being mere employees, we could not afford the “superficial glitter” that Pope Benedict XVI described the way some people celebrate their Christmas.

That’s another way of saying our Christmas celebration has always been subdued.

Malipayong Pasko Kanatong Tanan!


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 24, 2013.


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