Hopeful at Christmas
Yet we can’t keep Christmas at bay. It’s both the “most wonderful time of the year” and the most stressful, when the emotion felt, whether happiness or sadness, is profoundly deepened by the very season itself. And Social Weather Stations (SWS) reports that as 2016 winds to a close, 73 percent of adults expect Christmas to be happy and only 5 percent expect it to be sad.
But that’s the way of the flesh. Humankind grasps at happiness particularly during this yearend holiday when the Child’s birth is celebrated, ostensibly, although the sheer commerce that has come to accompany the celebration takes much of the significance away.
Despite the blood in the streets, we must find meaning in this season somehow—2016 being, according to SWS, the third year that the “happy” percentage went past 70 after 10 years (2004-13) of being in the 60s.
Yesterday in this space we lamented the violence occurring all over the world in this season of peace and goodwill: the assassination of the Russian ambassador in an Ankara photo gallery, a truck running into a crowd at a Christmas market in Berlin, a gunman shooting up a mosque in Zurich, children perishing every day in poor, tragic Aleppo—and, bolstering the continuing sense of foreboding, China setting up weapons on contested territory in the South China Sea.
At home, the violence is unrelenting. Just last Wednesday, a child, only 12 years old, was struck by a stray bullet at the “Simbang Gabi” in Biñan, Laguna. Police said a motorcycle-riding gunman had opened fire on a village watchman who had previously surrendered to authorities as someone “using or pushing” drugs. The target was killed, and so was the child, at one of the dawn Masses heralding the birth of the Redeemer. The killers, and their instigators, have truly lost all shame.
So what, where, is the Filipino’s evergreen source of hope?
The SWS survey reveals many interesting things about how Filipinos feel about Christmas. Their vaunted generosity and hospitality are reflected in the finding that 75 percent of the respondents think it is indeed “better to give than to receive.” Among the people of Mindanao, a whopping 78 percent expect a happy Christmas; on the other hand, residents of the National Capital Region aren’t feeling the love as much, registering the lowest expectation of a happy Christmas at 66 percent.
Point of interest: In 2002, the SWS report showed that an all-time high of 82 percent looked forward to a happy Christmas. But that number tumbled to 62 percent, and thereafter inched upward to land at 73 percent. These numbers may or may not reflect the inner thinking and feelings of how Filipinos approach this most beloved of holidays. Christmas is a Christian tradition, but the majority of Filipinos celebrate it, we dare say without prejudice. It reflects the culture as one that values giving, that likes to celebrate, and, most important, that looks for the good in a given situation.
Amid the uncertainty and the fear that are so much more prevalent in the world today, Filipinos embrace Christmas with optimism. Are we less than discerning for doing this? Insensitive to the evil being done?
Still we pray. We sing—and we mean it. We hold our loved ones, especially our children, close, and dream of a new day for them. We hope for the best for each other and wisdom for those who lead us. We hold this hope in our streets and our homes, and even beyond our shores; we hold this hope for the people of Aleppo and everyone else suffering around the globe.
We must protect this reservoir of hope, not only during this season but also beyond it. In being hopeful, we must continue to rail against injustice, to work to right wrongs, to uphold human rights and the preciousness of life, each life, and to seek enduring peace and a better future for the children, the weak and the powerless.
Hope is, after all, the essence of a Filipino Christmas.
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