Letters | A Christmas in Interesting Times

First published in the December of 2020 issue of Roots and Wings which you can read here


It hasn’t been an easy year.


Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, it’s very likely that these will be very familiar sentiments. Christmas and New Year’s Day have always been times for recollection and with the last twelve months as tumultuous as it was – starting with Taal threatening eruption in January and somehow going downhill from there –one might be excused to skip the holidays entirely and just hope 2021 would have decidedly different theme to it.

Still, centuries of continuity provide a kind of momentum neither storm, nor plague, nor political unrest can withstand. Jose Mari Chan Memes began surfacing early in August this year as if the “Ber” months themselves had to be led in by their own month-long advent. Malls have decked themselves in shimmering lights in courageous defiance of economic uncertainty, quarantine-related business closures, and (perhaps) best practices in social distancing. Worn-out lip-service or not, Filipino Resiliency will have a Christmas Parol shining brightly on the last island left on the archipelago whatever December 2020 might bring.


Of course, with our lavish traditions facing off against our grim present realities, celebrating a quintessentially Filipino Christmas will take a little bit of adjustment for many of us. Here are some of Roots and Wings’ tips on celebrating the Holiday Season this 2020.


REFLECT ON WHAT WE’LL MISS OUT ON THIS YEAR

For those of us who tend to Christmas and New Years’ with friends and family, we will inevitably be missing out on a lot of the usual fare. Large family gatherings are illegal in many places in the World currently and what is a Filipino Christmas without gathering one’s large Filipino family? Rather than simply looking at whatever bright side there is to the occasion however, we would actually suggest indulging in a reflection of what is lost. Joyous feasting, grandiose gifts, the raucous laughter of loved ones – the loving thing this year is to avoid these things hopefully until next time. Of course, the objective isn’t to throw a pity party in lieu of the regular celebration. The idea is to distill for ourselves what we celebrate Christmas for.


How might the forcibly unemployed or the flood-swept, or the orphaned be celebrating Christmas this year and might this have something to do with us and what we believe the season stands for?

REFLECT ON THE REASON FOR THE SEASON

Not everyone is a devout Christian for Christmas. Many of us see these Holy Days and Nights as times to meditate on the mystery of Divine Incarnation – the Fullness of God Become Mortal Flesh and making a dwelling-place among us. Others might see it as a time to relive fold childhood memories or to spend time with family and friends. Christmas is a season that looms over the Spiritual and the Secular alike but a little reflection may reveal that what we value about it will be uniquely personal to us. It’s in the lyrics of your favorite carols; it’s in the moral of your favorite Christmas movies; it’s in the feeling you get tasting those dishes you might not be able to taste this year.


Given the bustle of the season is largely mitigated this year, it may be a good time to slow down and wonder what we would have bustled for. What might it have said about us?


REMEMBER THOSE WHO HAVE LOST THE MOST THIS YEAR

To turn an old phrase, everyone suffered equally this year but some more equally than others. If you’re reading this on a charged phone under a dry ceiling without a suspicious cough or numb taste buds then it is certain that you’ve escaped at least some of the worst this year had to offer. How might the forcibly unemployed or the flood-swept, or the orphaned be celebrating Christmas this year and might this have something to do with us and what we believe the season stands for?


BE CREATIVE WITH WHAT’S IMPORTANT

The best thing about clarifying your values is that life’s circumstances tend to be window dressing in comparison. If Christmas is a time of beatific vision into the Unfathomable Love of God then canceling Christmas Party plans can be an opportunity to focus on prayer and charity. If Christmas time is a time for connecting with far-flung family the instead of ignoring them for hours to cook and clean for your grand Noche Buena, you can use this time writing them deeply intimate and heart-felt emails.


The thing about losing so much of the spectacle and bombast of a Traditional Filipino Christmas is that we also have a chance to circumvent all the obligatory noise that comes with it. If Christmas means something important to us, it should be important enough to adapt to challenging times.


However, it is a quintessentially Filipino yearning to seek joyous respite from the season and I believe that yearning is enough for many of us to find the Joy we seek.

JOY, DEFIANT

It will be the easiest thing in the world to say that happiness is all in the mind and that anyone can be happy with the right mindset. Knowing what so many people went through and lost this year, I would be forgiven for thinking this is – at best – crass and insensitive. There are very real reasons for many to be somber this Christmastime and no one should have to pretend to be happier than they are. However, it is a quintessentially Filipino yearning to seek joyous respite from the season and I believe that yearning is enough for many of us to find the Joy we seek. I just think that it will happen not by demanding for things to be the way they used to be. I believe that joy will be in finding what was actually good and actually beautiful about all of those Christmases past and realizing that 2020 has done nothing to tarnish the core of it.


Hey, it might even be enough to make on hopeful for a brighter 2021.


First published in the December of 2020 issue of Roots and Wings which you can read here

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