Christmas: In Our Hearts or In Our Pockets?
Illustration by Xene Cabahug
The lines are long and often even winding. The people are thrilled and the songs are exciting. The place is lit with colorful lights. Guards are doubled. Security is tight. No, I’m not talking about the line outside a Taylor Swift concert. I’m talking about Christmas that time of the year when the malls are packed with people with hands full of packs.
What items will you line up for this holiday season? What do you want from your parents? What gifts do you expect to see under your Christmas tree? A new gadget? Cash? An obligatory mug from your Secret Santa?
These are now the paths our minds take when we hear the word Christmas. More than anything, Christmas has become an avenue for gift-giving, going to sales and of course, spending.
Christmas, in this sense, is sugar-coated commercialism. The occasion has allowed marketers to create the need to give material things to our loved ones, to go to different Christmas sales and to decorate our homes in the most western way possible.
Even the Philippine tradition of Misa de Gallo did not escape the shackles of commercialism. What else motivates us to wake up at dawn, go to church and endure an hour of drowsiness while listening to the lullaby that is the priest talking about something we won’t remember later? We bring ourselves to get up at the dawn and the mornings after that because we were told that if we complete all nine Misa de Gallos, God will grant us one wish. It’s cheeky how we make negotiations even with God.
We may have completed all nine early morning masses, but in how many of those Masses did you actually listen and genuinely pray?
Moreover, materialistic culture has set our minds to love him who delivers the things in our Christmas list. Perhaps this is the reason why we love Santa Claus so much. It is quite a feat that he survives in the Philippines, though. Doesn’t he feel hot with his beard and suit?
Exchanging gifts is somehow also a manifestation of materialism. Don’t we exchange gifts so we can ensure that when we give, we also receive? Isn’t that the ulterior motive? Yet how ironic is it that it’s Jesus’ birthday, and we’re the ones who get gifts?
Christmas is when we remember our ninongs and ninangs. After all, they are the owners of the house we go and rob our gifts from. This is Christmas’s legal form of fun robbery — no need for a gunpoint, just a killer smile that says, “I am my mother’s daughter and you carried me as a baby.”
Christmas has become merrymaking in parties rather than celebrating Christ’s birth. It’s delighting in a sleigh filled with presents more than in a manger bearing God’s greatest gift. It’s now receiving rather than giving, wishes rather than prayers, beauty rather than meaning. The highlight of Christmas is now the 13th month bonus, the extravagance of gifts and the magnificence of houses’ decorations and handa.
Nevertheless, even if it has taken advantage of the Filipinos’ love for Christmas, commercialism keeps the Christmas spirit burning. It does its part to prevent our belief in Christ’s birth from withering with the advent of secularism. It plants in our hearts the anticipation that grows whenever Christmas is near. It sprays to our senses the smell of the holiday atmosphere and the feeling of extraordinary generosity and kindness. A ray of sunshine lies beyond these skies clouded by money and overindulgence. There are also many who still have an unadulterated view of Christmas. There are hearts that continue to give without expecting anything in return. There are those who strive to attend Christmas Masses because they undoubtedly believe that they owe God their gratitude and prayers. There are those that still see Christmas for its real essence: the celebration of Christ’s birth, a time to share and a season of hope.
While society doesn’t make it easy to see Christmas as something more than just a time for parties, elaborate gifts and jolly old men with distinct laughter, it’ll never be wrong to be excited for Christmas sales, to want to exchange gifts and to have flamboyant decorations.However, we cannot just afford to see Christmas in the eyes of the rest of society when society itself acts blind.