THE Philippines has the dubious reputation of having the longest celebration of Christmas, with eager beaver disc jockeys playing yuletide carols at the start of the “ber” months, with the Siberian winds sending chills and shivers to the bone which obviously translates into a real restful deep slumber.
From the shacks of informal settlers to the mansions of the filthy rich, the air is filled with the wonderful smell of puto bumbong, and hot chocolate and also the aroma of golden ham.
All of a sudden, colors are bursting everywhere; the poinsettia proudly dominating the landscape with its fiery red, competing with the bright canary yellow of the sunflower. The towns in the province, not to be outdone by their city counterpart dress in full holiday style, with fully decorated giant Christmas trees which tower over thick crowds of frenzied shoppers in bazaars, malls and commercial centers.
And let’s not forget the plethora of carnivals in strategic places to the delight of tots and their lolos and lolas. Even Third World equatorial countries try hard to mimic Christmas in temperate and frigid nations with Santa Claus North Pole wonderland with his nine reindeers joyfully pulling his sleigh heavy with toys and gifts; lovable elves, candy canes and snowmen. Glowing bells, lanterns, wreaths and angels sounding their trumpets and little children singing Ang Pasko ay Sumapit repeatedly from house to house, to end it with the now very famous, Thank you, ang babait ninyo.
Let’s pause for a while and think and ask; are all these is what Christmas is? Probably for a majority, Christmas is merely a feast and a holiday where in homes across the globe, families and kinsmen will sit down and eat a little more than their usual meals and drink with gay abandon and be merry. Christmas is a grat event that will always hold magic in the heart of humanity, no matter what the time, be it a time of peace or a time of crisis.
Magic? Indeed because Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, our Lord and Savior , born in a manger in the most humble, simplest and barest circumstances, a child that would evolve into a holy man who gave His life for the salvation of mankind. Thus, amid the whirl of sounds and sights and all the festive holiday activities, let’[s take time and focus on the true essence of Christmas.
Therefore as the cold wind blows and the belfries call, let’s listen and heed its call. As we brave the chilly night for the Misa de Gallo, allow the permeating atmosphere of love, compassion and the power of forgiveness engulf us, as we search for that one bright star of Bethlehem from among the gleaming silvers in the sky. Then as we sit in the pews of the church and the chapels, let’s find our own new birth in this sacred occasion. Let your feelings run free, let your heart beat faster, let your eyes mist, let that tear fall. Let the Christmas spirit be part of us, our entire being, bringing us closer to where we really belong- into the hearts of our family, friends, fellowmen and most of all, to God.
As the song goes, “although it’s been said many times, many ways, MERRY CHRISTMAS to all of you!