Thursday, November 29, 2007

Keeping Christmas

Veinte-tres tulog na lang at Pasko na!

It pains me to hear people say that this Christmas will be a sad one because they don't have money. Christmas, they say, won't be the same because there will be less food on the table, no new dress and shoes, no gifts, etc, etc, etc. CNN anxiously reports that people are spending less for Christmas gifts compared to previous years.

Since when did we need money, lots of foods, new clothes and shoes, gifts galore and other material things to celebrate Christmas?

When I was younger, the centerpiece of our Christmas celebration was precisely the commemoration of the birth of Christ. We made plans for attending the Misa de Gallo so that we could take the good seats in the church and enjoy the two-hour high Mass. We took a long afternoon nap, neatly laid down our Sunday's best to wear for the Mass and check our secret cache of gifts for family. For the Media Noche, we had real thick tsokolate ah, quezo de bola, Excelente ham and hot pandesal. Then simple gifts were exchanged among family members and friends in attendance. Then, we made the rounds of relatives in the neighborhood, kissed their hands and, hope for the best gift or a certain amount of money. The morning after was spent going around the neighborhood kissing the hands of adult neighbors with hope of receiving some money-gifts. At the Christmas dinner table, everybody recounted their happy experience during the pleasurable day.

Now, that didn't require a lot of money. It only required all the faith.

We could be frugal and still find bliss in remembering the birth of Christ. For me one word captures the spirit of Christmas—giving. Giving of oneself, be it material, talent, skill or spiritual.

Gather family, friends and work mates and give of yourself to your church, your community, your school, your less fortunate co-employees, charitable organizations, your park, to whoever could use what you have and are happy to share.

Pro-Life Philippines will be happy to have extra hands in their various projects such as their halfway home for unwed pregnant girls. You could volunteer to teach them some livelihood skills like bead making to give them something to work on to support their incoming child. Or share your own and your children's clothes and things. Or simply hold their hands and encourage them to keep their baby and move on.

The Scouting movement, Red Cross Philippines, Caritas Manila and other such organizations would be happy to work with volunteers in their numerous projects. Don't just give money—that's an easy thing to do. God gave more than he could—he gave His only Son to us.

Get your neighbors together and clean up the public areas and facilities in your community—streets, park, Chapel and others. Volunteer to clean up the public day care center, elementary and high schools to make them more conducive to learning. Give the housekeeping staff a break and much needed extra hand instead of simply giving them your usual gifts. Donate your children's used books and some of your own for the teachers. For decorations, please emphasize the Nativity and lessen those that commercialize Christmas.

Organize Christmas Caroling Evenings one hour every evening starting tonight until Christmas Eve. Ask your neighbors to gather at a certain hour at a certain place in your neighborhood, bring with them any portable musical instrument they could use and start singing. You could prepare the song list with lyrics. Or in your office, stop working 15 minutes before knock-off time and every body sings Christmas carols until you all go home. The children would love this. The idea is to spread the word around, but it won't hurt to put a bowl nearby for your neighbors to drop some money into it—you could use the money towards other Christmas projects.

Stage a Nativity play or tableau and enlist your neighbors or officemates as actors. This will not only remind everybody about the real Christmas, but it will also be a venue for thespians in your team to showcase their talents.

Meanwhile Theody Dimaisip sends a invite to the final run of the highly acclaimed play, Dogeaters, based on Jessica Hagedorn's best selling novel about the Philippines during the dark days of Marcos reign. For show details, pls call Atlantis Production at 8401187 or Ticketworld at 8915610.

Again, let's fill ourselves with the spirit of Christmas and enjoy the season with giving of ourselves just like Jesus.


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