Padilla: Decorating Christmas

I DON'T remember when I started taking charge of Christmas in the house. Maybe, it was after I graduated from college? Or was it in one of those times when I went home for Christmas? Whenever; it was always something I looked forward to with mixed feelings of dread and excitement. Dread because it severely drained the pocket and the details gnawed on every OC cell in my mind.

Taking charge of Christmas meant decorating our small house right after Halloween and just before Thanksgiving. So, I would take time going to malls to spy on motifs and themes, watch American shows in earnest to learn much more, and browse through countless pictures of celebrity homes for, uhmm, inspiration. My brothers would be taking out the boxes of decorations and set up a little which I would alter when I got into my decorating frenzy. The fever sometimes included sewing shorts or simple dresses for everyone to wear on Christmas day. I was, shamelessly, caught in the middle-class epidemic of making Christmas the most obviously jubilant yet the most commercial season of the year.

In one of my peculiar years, I decided to bedeck the house in blue, purple, white, silver, and mint green. I literally mapped out the designs in my mind and kept it a secret until I finally completed my hoard of decorations. I decorated the house at midnight and meant it as a surprise for everyone. But, surprise was only to be mine.

While my brothers found it cool, the biggest Christmas persons in the house, my parents, disliked it. My father thought the colors were "dead" and my mother echoed the same sentiment. So I took out the blues and the purples and replaced it with red, yellow, and forest green and that has been our Christmas hue since then and without observance of Pantone's color of the year.

But while I would play around the Christmas tree and motifs, a staple display was the "belen" or crèche. It would occupy the centerpiece and Mama always wanted it simple "because Christ was born in the simplest ways."

As a child, it was difficult for me to understand why the son of God was born in a manger, swaddled in rags, and cooed upon by uninteresting donkeys and noisy lambs. I wanted to surround our small crèche with poinsettias but nowhere in the Christmas story was any reference to flowers surrounding the manger. So, I chose gold mesh instead after all, I thought, the three kings brought gold, incense, and myrrh. Mama said I could dry some real grass instead. Then I placed some fancy glass animals along with the staple manger animals. Again, my mother vetoed against it saying the porcelain didn't mingle well with the ceramic donkey and lambs. Never mind that it was Murano or probably because it was because it was Murano. So eventually, I gave up on sprucing up the crèche.

The house and everywhere I could think of ornamenting was overloaded. I even had bath soaps in shapes of stars and toilet paper with Christmas trees but the crèche remained untouched and simple and eventually stood out among the overload.

So this is Christmas again and against the glitter and the monetary bonuses, the wishes of the people I hold close to my heart remain simple and need no special season -- to be cancer-free, winning a legal battle, a pain-free exit for an ill father, a punctual flight home, a new job, a safe birth, a reunion with an OFW mother, a phone call from a loved one, and yes, peace and love. And just like the lines in my favorite Christmas song: no more lives torn apart, that wars would never start and time would heal our hearts. And yes, for love to never end.
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