What is your Christmas “spirit”?

Ages back when I was  still in the Philippines,  I could easily  remember  the  “puto bumbong”  “cuchinta”,      “bibingka” ,  all those “kakanin”,  that we  usually  devour  after the midnight  mass.   I  remember  that  right after  the Simbang  gabi  or  Misa de Gallo  – which  9 days  “ordeal”  of  having to wake up  at  4 am,  had  been converted into some sort of a competition among  friends and  relatives –  we’d rush  to the  bibingka  stall   to   order  our  morning  breakfast.   I  want   to re-live  again  the  moment  while going  to  Church,  to  feel the  cool  breeze  of  the morning  dew  hitting  my  face.   Despite the   “inconvenience”  of  waking up  as  early  as  4 am,   we do our  best to finish  the  9  days,  because of  the belief  that  we shall be  rewarded  after  the  sacrifice we’ve confronted with. Truly  though, after  each mass  we  feel   bright  and  gay,  moreover  because  we know,  that  Christmas  is  just  around the corner.      

Puto bumbong



It  is  really  amazing  how  we,  Filipinos,   start  the  “celebration”  of the Yuletide  season.  When  the “-ber”  month  begins – September  to be exact –  we  already hear  Christmas songs and carols  being aired  on the radio.  Big  shopping malls,  stores  and even  houses  begin  filling up   their  establishments  with  Christmas  decors.  People  start  hanging  “parols”  at  the  windows of their  houses.  Cherry  lights   illuminate  facades  of  buildings and  houses  as well.  Christmas  “Carolers”  would  start  forming  groups  and  start practicing  to serenade  families,  offices,  friends,   before  Christmas  arrives.    All  these  convey  the Christmas message  and  the  atmosphere   of  joy  with soon  take place.   It also means that  we have to be prepare wrapping  gifts for our  beloved  relatives  and  friends.   But, do we really  feel  that “spirit”  in  our  hearts  or  we  were  just   being  courteous  to the tradition  that  our  parents,  grand-parents  and forefathers  had  instilled  in  us  to  follow?  A huge  question  to  respond to…but…. I   guess  we actually did  feel  the  spirit  of Christmas.   Sad  to say  though  but  I think,  yes,  decades  back.  


I think the  “commercial  value”  of  what  Christmas  is  all about,  has  become  more  significant  nowadays   than  its “spiritual  value”.  Gone  are  the days  when  children  were contented   receiving a wooden  car,  or  a  t-shirt  or  marbles,  from their  ninong  or   ninang.  “Mano po,  Ninong/Ninang”,   was  repeatedly  said  and  before,  no matter what  the gift was  received  from  the   ninong or  ninang,  children  didn’t  feel  upset,   a  ten  peso bill was  then   a  “treasure”.   Now,  gifts  have  to be  “exaggeratedly”  more than  a   1.000 pesos worth..  Children no longer  see the  “true value”  or  the  “spirit”  behind  the  gift.  What  they  see  more  now  is  the  “amount”   the gift  shows on  its  price  tag.     

The  Filipino “poor”,  have  likewise  differed  their  attitude towards  the concept  of  Christmas  “spirit”.   Street children  become  more “aggressive”  in the manner  they’d  ask  for  alms;  expression of  anger,  stress and anxiety  are  seen written  on the  faces  of  some  people;    theft  become  rampant along  the  streets  of  Manila.   Traffic  jam  is  everywhere.   People  are  seen arguing  at the slightest provocation.  Local  police are more visible  in the  streets  to beef up security.  There are   hundreds  of  negative things  we  could  observe  during the  period,  that  we can no longer  tell  whether  people feel  any  “spirit”   at  all for the  meaning of  what  is  to be  celebrated.   Making us  think  that  the  Christmas  decors,   cherry lights,  lanterns,  the  “misa  de  gallo”,  and  the  rest of the other   Christmas  motifs,  are merely  superficial  display  on  how  we  really  conceive Christmas to  be. 

I miss   how it  was  decades  back,   I  feel  the nostalgia   of  being once  again  waking up  in the wee hours in the morning to  attend the Simbang  Gabi;  to devour  “puto  bumbong”,  “cuchinta”  and  “bibingka”.   To  be in a    carolling  group  to sing  Christmas  songs,  to  see  lanterns  and  cherry  lights.  To  listen  to  kids  saying “mano po,  ninong”,   to hear  Christmas  songs  being played  on the radio.  To  feel  the  morning  dew  cool  my  face  while  in Church.  These  are  my   Christmas  “spirits”.  Although   I am thousands  of kilometres  away  from  home,  there  is no chance by which I will  change  my  “Christmas  spirit”   for  something  else in this  world,  even  if  I am  only   reminiscing  the  past.   But given  the  chance, I  would  surely  celebrate  Christmas in the Philippines  over  again  to feel my  “Christmas  spirit”.   Meanwhile,  I  can  only  be  content  to  feel  my  “Christmas  spirit”  in dreams,  the  most  I can  afford  to do right  now.  How about you,  what is your  Christmas  spirit?          

I’ve  nothing  more  to  add…thanks  for  reading…Eric  

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