In the succeeding centuries, celebration of Christmas became more interesting, jovial and exciting with the introduction of symbols and rituals – carols, Christmas tree, holly, mistletoe, stockings, gifts, Christmas cards, candles, bells, Kris Kringle, bonfires, candy cane, poinsettia, the Advent wreath, lanterns and many others in an attempt to “add” more color or “meaning” to Christmas.
Then, with the discovery of electricity, mechanization, electronics and, recently, robotics, more dazzling decorations were introduced into the market. Blinking Christmas lights “danced” with the music that went with it, tinsel and multi-colored bulbs and bells provided garnishing for Christmas trees and other state-of-the-art items that made traditional Christmas decorations more vibrant than the previously designed, improved and perfected year after year to serve business objectives.
The Philippines, known to have the longest celebration of Christmas, has its own distinct set of Christmas traditions. The parol (lantern) that was perfected by Pampanga’s craftsmen is now exported worldwide. The nine-day dawn masses, misa de gallo, is another Yuletide tradition distinctively Filipino. And yes, the pamamasko, noche buena and media noche have since time immemorial become part of the Filipino consciousness. One street in Metro Manila is an icon of Christmas as residences of the affluent are literally blanketed with Christmas lights and other decorations that specially make it a wonderful sight at night.
Sadly, however, along with progress, the concept of Christmas has been clouded by greed, materialism and commercialism. Today, having “no bonus” or no new clothes and toys or other mundane possession means sad or empty Christmas. Indeed, the Reason for the Season has somehow been lost in most of us.
Furthermore, the lure of lucrative business and windfall profits during the Season has made Santa Claus, Rudolf and the other reindeers, Frosty the Snowman, the Three Wise men, and other fictional characters become the focus in most Christmas advertisements instead of the Child on the manger.
Feuding countrymen in the socio-politico-religious-ideological divide find the occasion a time for temporary cessation of hostilities. It would serve the best interest of the nation and the people if their differences will be settled once and for all in the most civil and peaceful manner.
While most of us are spending vacation in an aura of wealth and plenty or busy filling our tummies with hearty meals in almost endless Christmas parties, the least of our brethren spend the Yuletide Season in cold pavements they call “home” deep in the cement jungles of the Metropolis or in the destitution of the countryside.
But there are still more who need our love and affection this Christmas – the abandoned old folks in nursing homes and the innocent toddlers in the orphanages who may not be able to know who their real parent are even until they are old enough to understand life in this world.
I am reminded of a story of a young boy many years ago that remains fresh in my memory and continues to inspire me whenever Christmas Season comes. Someone asked a boy, “Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?” The boy answered, “No, but it’s O.K. It’s not my birthday but His.”
Using the same story from then on, I have always made every effort to ask myself the question at the end of the Season, “Did I make Jesus happy this Christmas?”
A very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year to all!
(MindaViews is the opinion Section of MindaNews. Col. Restituto L. Aguilar, deputy commander of the Army’s 604th Infantry Brigade, is the vice chair of the government’s Ad Hoc Joint Action Group in the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front).