Thursday, July 18, 2019

Wenceslao: Christmas: old, new

I HAVE been through many Christmas celebrations to the point that I could already feel an erosion of the magic that the ritual wrapped around me since I was old enough to be conscious of it and savor it. When you are old, you are also in a better position to observe the changes in the manner Christmas is celebrated even as the basics of the Christian tradition remains.

I spent my childhood Christmases in our old place in Sitio Kawayan, Barangay Sambag 2 in Cebu City, the community located in the innermost part of B. Rodriguez Extension. The place was much different then, less populated and more innocent. We knew most of the families in the village and most of the children where our friends and acquaintances. That made doing the rituals—from caroling to exploding firecrackers—personally satisfying.

The biggest change in the community now is its bursting population, which makes celebrating Christmas more intense and chaotic. The street that penetrates the lower portion of Sitio Kawayan has become one busy thoroughfare full of passing vehicles and trisikads and, yes people. Some houses are still able to mount sound systems and be festive on the street but the celebration has to rise above the din and frenzy of a cramped place filled with people many of whom you can’t identify.

In school, Christmas celebrations were simple. I remember going to the nearest store near our school (City Central School in the elementary days and Southwestern University in High School) to hunt for the best cheap Christmas cards to give to classmates, specifically to my “crush.” Or we would be told to fashion our own cards and be creative.

I notice that only few of the young ones are into Christmas card hunting nowadays. Like the snail mail and telegram, Christmas cards have succumbed to advancement in technology. The bustle of the giving of Christmas cards (it’s now electronic cards or e-cards) has shifted to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms: free and easy to send but vicarious and not tangible.

The ubiquitous Christmas decors in houses and in classrooms were the parols or Christmas lanterns and the Christmas trees. I used to make my own parol using bamboo strips and Japanese paper. The Christmas trees we wrapped with either cotton or soap suds then decorated with Christmas ornaments that did not come cheap. Those with money can festoon the tree with series lights.

But along came China and its Christmas decors. Series lights became so readily and cheaply available that houses in the neighborhood now wrap them around the house and even around front- yard trees. When my wife and I visited Bogo early in our married life, one of the then town’s (Bogo is now a city) attraction was a barangay whose street was lined with hundreds of series lights.

The Filipino version of the diaspora began before the digital wave swept the world, so there was not much of a connection between an overseas Filipino worker and his or her family back home. Technology changed that in a good way with the communication revolution. And wait until we Pinoys catch fully the practice of e-commerce. Even the good old practice of Christmas shopping will change.

A very merry Christmas to all my readers.
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