Pacete: Christmas in our cultural history

THERE is no doubt that Filipinos consider Christmas as a season to love, to share, to thank and to celebrate. God sent His only begotten son to the world, to be with us, to suffer, to die and to rise from the dead. He comes in a manger to fulfill his Father’s will.

In Christmas, there is forgiving, thanksgiving, and gift-giving. We always have Christmas from the point of view of our faith (religion), culture, and commerce. We love the Child Jesus because of his innocence. He is cute and playful. He does not complain (yet). We love a child because he is harmless. He sees no evil in us, hears no evil, and he does not contradict what is wrong in us.

We have been under Spain for more than 300 years. The Spaniards made us deeply religious people (?). We belonged to varied ethnic groups. Filipinos fancy rituals. Our ancestors were animistic. The friars easily convinced them to embrace a new religion. The Catholic religion appears to them as having the elements of paranormal or supernatural. The friars told our ancestors that God is a pure spirit. This one God has three persons.

The second person in one God amuses our ancestors because he would be born on a Christmas Day. He would die on a Good Friday but he would resurrect (in full body). The celebration of Christmas speaks of the goodness and the evil in men that would lead men to heaven, hell, and purgatory. Christmas is only the beginning of the Son of God (Jesus). Later on, he will be the living food in transubstantiation (or turning bread and wine into the body and blood of Christs). Our ancestors loved that.

Since our ancestors were formerly fascinated with the paranormal or the occult, they would now love the rituals galore like baptism, confirmation, holy matrimony, confession, the mass, anointing of the sick, the holy rosary, the novenas, and even our making of the sign of the cross when there is lightning, before we take a bath or when our vehicle passes by the church or cemetery.

These are realities in our culture backed up by our religion that we tend to like and follow just like the tree growing in the middle of the road going to San Carlos City. We don’t entertain cutting the tree because it is there standing for three generations. We don’t consider it a hazard but a tourist attraction. We don’t question anything related to our culture because it is there already.

They are realities seen every time we wake up. We have accepted them as they are, much like that we do not question why our ears are at the side of the head and our hands are longer than our neck. We want to have peace for Christmas, or Christmas for peace. The fact remains that many are still killed and a bigger number of people get killed the moment Christmas season is over. Yet, we celebrate Christmas every year.

Our spirituality consists in praying endless novenas that we almost memorize from constant repetition. We have been joining religious processions and we hope that we understand why processions are being held in the first place. Our ancestors loved rituals. Our generation loves rituals because that’s just the way things are. We hope for a cultural change as we understand the true meaning of our faith.

In every rule, there is always an exception. Our Christmas celebration is always connected to prayer and faith in God. Do Filipinos pray (including government officials) that they will not indulge in graft and corruption? When husbands attend novena-masses, do they commit to God that they will not gamble, go home late drunk… and will be fair with their wives?

Do we seriously pray that our enemies (including political enemies) will not meet some personal misfortune? How many of us offer in our prayers a bigger portion of our land to be shared to the landless and the homeless. Do we pray that tomorrow we will sponsor the construction of a better home for our street children using our big income?

Our faith for Christmas is beautiful. It isn’t lost yet. Let it grow some more from the depths of our being. Let it dwell permanently in us and make it genuine, reliable and strong. May the spirit of Christmas glow in us!
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