It’s Christmas. Unmistakably Christmas. For Metro Manilans especially, it’s Christmas lights that brighten EDSA all night with thousands of cars, bumper to bumper. Some people, in fact, are making pictures of the EDSA traffic as their Christmas cards because the lights from all the cars and billboards can truly be an awesome sight. I read somewhere a message from MMDA asking those who have to brave the Christmas traffic to please be as patient as they can. It is an appropriate message and a very honest one. There is nothing MMDA or anyone can do about the Christmas traffic of 2017.
It is unfortunate that not many offices can just shut down during Christmas. I believe they will not lose so much productivity even if they don’t hold offices for two weeks. After all, their employees are not that focused on work anymore. Everybody is in Christmas mode. The preparations require time, talent and treasures – work cannot simply compete. And with slightly defocused attention, the margin for error suddenly increases. For all who have work to do, they go through the motion but they are thinking of other things.
Of course, when most are in fiesta mode, the need for special services become acute. The malls and shops have to stay open, and so will the restaurants, But it is usually a happy season for them, the most busy and profitable as well. I have a friend who owns a lechon business. He says that his December volume, including New Year festivities, can sometimes be bigger in one month versus the whole year. I wonder how stores and restaurants manage their employees during the height of their business season. Their employees have to have their Christmas leaves, too. I hope it means that they hire extra people during the holidays.
We all know that Christmas is more than what we see about it, especially the gift buying and giving, the special family gatherings with all the special food. There is a general lightness in the air, a sense of well-being despite the rush, or the financial pressure because of the unusual expenditures. It is a fiesta, a national one, and it has roots so deep that it is impossible to go against the spirit that pervades without paying a high price for it. I remember one political season 17 years ago, at the height of the Erap Resign movement that was rocking Metro Manila. Those who were behind the movement had to suspend street protests because people wanted to celebrate, not fight. In truth, Christmas is greater than politics. Unfortunately, it rules only for a month versus 11 months for the politicians.
It may be that Christmas brings the best out of us. There are those who decry how materialistic Christmas has become, how so much attention is given to what money can buy instead of more traditional activities like family reunions and even participation in religious activities. I myself had more than my share of wonderful Christmases. As a child up to having young children of my own, Christmas was the center of my life when the season came. There was just so much to look forward to, so much to prepare for, so much fun and joy swirling in the air. It is not difficult to understand how a yearly experience of Christmas can influence one’s life forever.
Times change, though. I believe the spirit of Christmas is still very strong but I also believe that we have many new ways of expressing what we feel and think. The younger generations definitely outnumber the older ones, and their preferred forms of expression will dominate even if a substantial amount of power and resources remain in the control of the older ones. Businesses themselves are already being managed by younger executives and owners; they will be very understanding about allowing or nurturing the new expressions to become even more mainstream. It is not only through our understanding of and participation in Christmas celebrations, it is also how the relationship between religion and believer has radically morphed. While belief in God seems to be more the case than not, it does seem that the jealous and vengeful God has transitioned to be one of kindness and understanding.
What still comes through with great consistency is the sense of both hope and joy when Christmas comes around. It is a powerful and uplifting atmosphere, and it reminds us that whatever our differences may be during the year, we are not as interested in pursuing and aggravating them during the Christmas season. That means we can rise above our conflicts and focus ourselves to what spreads cheer and optimism. We may not forgive our enemies but we surely don’t want to bother with them if only it is possible – not during the holidays, anyway.
If only for the respite from conflict that we have during Christmas, all the holidays and expenses are worth it. I do not think that we can underestimate the cost of division and in-fighting from our partisanship, whether that may stem from politics, business or religion. How long has the communist rebellion been and what price have we all paid for it? How long has the Muslim separatist rebellion been and what is its running cost? And every campaign and election, what has it caused us and our relationships?
We are Filipinos, brothers and sisters. During Christmas, we seem to be more acutely aware of this in the good sense. We even look forward to enjoying the Christmas season, knowing (or hoping) that the ill will be set aside momentarily. Why not permanently? Why not look to our lives with the hope and optimism that permeates during the holidays? What law dictates that fraternity and goodwill are only for Christmas? It is, at most, a bad habit of eleven months that one month then proves it is a habit we can still overcome. We have to work at it but so what?
It’s Christmas. That’s why I am wishing.
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