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COMMENTARY

Santa Claus vs Jesus Christ

05:09 AM December 19, 2017

I hate Christmas, and New Year’s Day as well. Why? Because I think it’s absurd to be obliged to be happy on an assigned date. What could be a greater lie than to be told to be merry in the midst of all the human chaos around the world, particularly in the misery one finds among the marginalized population in our country? The gaudy decorations (those involving snow, totally irrelevant in a tropical country like ours), the display of lights (wasteful in a place where energy is scarce), and the constant appeal to join the bustling crowds in the malls, to binge and consume—all of it is crass and maddening.

The silly season, which starts in this country during the so-called “ber months,” when one sees parol being sold on the streets, and hears carols on radio, firecrackers exploding, and folks greeting each other “Merry Christmas,” is ludicrous when the holiday itself is weeks away. Though I realize that much of this is an escape from reality, the stress on optimism makes me wonder why so many people prefer to ignore the real world and its struggles.

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One could say Christmas is mainly for children, but that’s another lie. It’s the big day for retailers, for familial selfishness, and, worse of all, for encouraging children to be consumers. It’s the exact opposite of what children need to learn about the real world, about not being self-indulgent. It doesn’t teach them to be charitable toward others.

I recently saw three boys in our neighborhood, all about six years old, gleefully chasing each other with plastic rifles that shot styrofoam bullets. The boys’ parents were obviously unaware that, when older, their sons might hanker for real guns, probably adding to the murder rate in this country.

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To me, the worse symbol of Christmas is Santa Claus, which is a superstition for children, a stupid tale told by mindless adults simply to promote their self-indulgent agendas.

For decades now it seems like the Child, who should be remembered and celebrated, has been forgotten. The antithesis of the bloated bearded Santa Claus, he is the naked infant who lies serenely in the beautiful Nativity scene among farm animals.

Is Jesus the son of God? Some believe he’s the son of man, begotten and not created, and ultimately born of a woman, like all of us humans have been. For believers, what does Jesus symbolize? There are various answers to that question. But for the nonbelievers, he was a unique and humble man who lived to do good for humankind.

According to the French philosopher André Comte-Sponville, “He had nothing to sell, nothing to give, nothing more than his life and his love. He symbolized love even when he was weak, defeated, humbled and tortured.” Comte-Sponville has said that even though he’s an atheist, he remains “faithful to the spirit of Christ who represents justice and charity. … He is the true spirit of Christmas and the opposite of Santa Claus, whose fans embody selfishness and consumption.” About Christmas he said: “It’s not the victory. … It’s the love. Not the power, but the justice. Not divinity but humanity.”

Amid the disorder and din of our daily lives, where we’re constantly bombarded by untruth, fakery and evil, it’s not easy to keep the faith. There are too many who have trouble knowing what’s good and true, especially in the Philippines where the feudal system has long been deeply rooted. Ours is supposedly the “only Christian nation in Asia,” with some 80 percent of the population labeled as Catholics, but it’s hard to fathom how many of those are true practitioners of the faith. Amorality can produce immorality, and what passes for religion are superstitious beliefs and animist practices handed down through generations.

I admire the atheist André Comte-Sponville who remains faithful to the spirit of Christ; he is indeed a rare wise man in today’s world.

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Isabel T. Escoda has written about migrant workers, especially in Hong Kong where she lived for many years before moving in 2015 to her birthplace of Cebu. Her books include “Letters from Hong Kong,” “Hong Kong Postscript,” “Pinoy Abroad,” and two books for children.

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TAGS: Christmas, Inquirer Commentary, Isabel T. Escoda, Jesus Christ, Santa Claus
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