The Forgotten Spirit of Christmas
By Apolinario Villalobos
This blog comes early in reaction to the grating comments of broadcasters about the onset of “ber” months, in anticipation of Christmas. They are even proud to say that the Philippines has the longest Christmas in the world. What comes out of their mouth are “ninong”, “ninang”, gifts, bonus, noche Buena, ham, shopping, etc. – never a single mention of Jesus, who is the reason why the questionable exact date of the season, veiled with supposedly his “birthday”, but which was a pagan practice, is being celebrated. This is without regard to the utter poverty that is being experienced by majority of the Filipinos. It is like rubbing salt to the wound.
Some radio stations are starting to play Christmas songs, even at the onset of September, yet. There is no question about the ability of the Filipinos to bend backward to evade the intense effect of calamities which ever since, include poverty, but to emphasize the magnanimous difference between the prosperous and the suffering “showcased” during Christmas is just harsh. The merry songs and the glitter of Christmas lights that try to obscure the real picture of the country, just intensify that bitterness being felt by those who are suffering.
I have a friend who, smilingly told me once, that it is not his fault if he has more than enough money for his family’s shopping spree during Christmas, and added that he worked hard for it. In reply, I said yes, there is nothing wrong with that, but flaunting the affordability which the media is doing, is unbecoming, as it is just emphasizing the poverty of those who can’t even afford two decent meals a day. I reminded my friend about the words “sympathy”, “sharing”, “humility”, and “restraint”.
What is unfortunate is that some children today, equate Christmas with shopping, new clothes, toys, gifts and tables groaning under the weight of luxurious and festive food. That is why, at an early age, what is embedded in their minds is that, without those material luxuries, there is no Christmas or Christmas is “sad”. In malls, the centerpiece of the season is Santa Claus. In homes, the centerpiece of the festivity is the Christmas tree festooned with glittering and twinkling lights and decorations, while underneath are gaily –wrapped boxes containing gifts for members of the family and friends. Sadly, the supposedly, one reason of the celebration – Jesus, is shamelessly forgotten.
Others may insist that it is the season for “giving”, but why give only on Christmas day? Sharing should not wait until Christmastime. Why prolong the agony of those who may find comfort in whatever is shared with them to abate their hunger now?
I am not against Christmas, but in the way Filipinos fanatically observe it. The real meaning, which is supposedly the “birthday” of Jesus, is sadly obscured by materialism. Since there is a popular allegation based on scientific computations, that the 25th of December as the birth date of Jesus Christ is questionable anyway, perhaps, it would be wise, if such day or the whole season be observed the way the pagans did it – full of gluttonic merriment, minus any religious taint, most especially, without reference to Jesus, so that the veil of hypocrisy is discarded for good. At least, observance is done with honesty. Most especially, the reference to the feast be reverted to its old name – Saturnalia.
During the early Christian times, the date was not even celebrated. What were observed were the baptism of Jesus Christ, the miracle at Cana, and the Epiphany – all done with sincere piety. Unfortunately, there are so many oversights about the background on the 25th December celebration. Who to blame for this oversight is no longer necessary, as it will just heat up the issue. Had there been an honest dissertation on this, mistakes that have been piling up with regards to popular “religious” beliefs could have been lessened. And, die-hard celebrators of the date in question, should have been conscious of their actions.
I am sharing this observation, not to incite differing feelings on religion. This is not about religion. This is even more about economy because Christmastime means good business. If ever, questions that should come to the viewer’s mind should be about the scientific truth on the date, as researches are being made based on the Biblical information…hence, this question should not also be regarded as a heresy.
And again, in fairness to Jesus Christ whose name is being used as an excuse, perhaps, it would be better if celebrators revert to the old reference of the pagan feast which is Saturnalia (feast of unconquered sun), or better give it another name, something like, “Feast of Prosperity and Sharing”, there is no clarity, anyway, if indeed, 25th December is his real birthdate. This way, the feast can be observed with gusto, and the fanatics not bothered by their conscience.
Finally, my other suggestion is for us to try our best to re-program our minds and exert extra effort to re-educate our children on what Christmas is all about…at least, we can try.