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The Santa in my lolo and lola

/ 05:10 AM December 23, 2018

For children, the idea of Santa Claus — a jolly man in red plush suit with a sackful of gifts in his sleigh — highlights the spirit of Christmas giving.

Years ago, I, too, wrote letters addressed to the North Pole where I asked for my young heart’s desire. By October, I would have my parents send these letters to the elf factory so that Santa could begin making toys I could only dream of.

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I profoundly recall one Christmas Eve when I patiently waited near the window, occasionally glancing at the skies to wait for the magical sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. The wait made my eyes droopy and I eventually fell asleep on the couch, hoping to see Santa even in my dreams.

Morning came and, with anticipation, I immediately checked the socks which I hung by the window. Ah! There was a present for me, after all. I tore off the bright-colored wrapping and revealed the present that Santa gave me. Confusion crossed my naive mind. The gift was not the one I had asked for in my letter. Maybe Santa forgot my wish?

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Beginning 12 years old, I stopped receiving presents from Santa. I was of the ripe age to “know” things. I became the person who helped my younger relatives write their letters for the North Pole.

As I grew up, Christmas gifts became scarce and the season became a little cold. I lost the wonder in my eyes whenever I saw lights flickering in different colors.

I surrendered the role of topping the star on the tree to my brother. Everything felt oddly normal, as if the magical air of Christmas was not blowing in my direction anymore.

Just recently, I came across my gallery of past Christmases. Every photo was like a moment frozen in time, some of which I cannot remember anymore. Mostly, they were of my family and me preparing Noche Buena, eating together and singing videoke.

Occasionally, I would see photos of my grandparents with an enormous plastic or rice sack distributing gifts to my cousins. Every year, they would do this. Every year, they would also say to us, “Pasensiya na, ’yan lang ang nakayanan ng  budget.”

It took me a while to realize that, as their grandchild, I bore witness to the true meaning of selfless giving.

I do not come from a well-off family. My grandparents are farmers who earn twice a year during the rice harvest season. With cracked soles and nails caked in mud, they raised their six children through farming.

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During the planting season, my lolo, in his kamisa  de  chino and straw hat, would plow the field and restore the pilapil or pathways of rice paddies. My lola would plant her patches of vegetables for extra income as the palay grew.

In their small nipa hut adjacent to the rice fields, they led a simple life. During the wet season, they maintained the fields, which appeared as a sea of green floating in the land. When it was time to harvest, they separated palay grains from the stalks and the fields turned to the color of a melted pot of gold.

But when it was Christmas, they became our own Santa who, despite their monetary difficulty, always saw to it that they were able to make other people feel special even in their small way.

My grandparents remind me that Christmas is never about your financial status. It is a time for family and friends, to rekindle lost relationships and treasure the people in your life.

Maybe, some of its magic is lost as the years take their toll on us. Maybe we’re no longer the children who wished on stars and flower petals. But I think this season gives us another chance to heal our broken souls and ease our worries. It is Christmas after all.

I once read that the concept of Santa Claus originated from Saint Nicholas, patron saint of children or sailors. As a rich man, he would secretly help those in need.

The most famous story about him was Nicholas dropping gold in stockings that were hung for drying, so that the daughters of an impoverished man could give dowry and get married.

These acts of kindness entail compassion and a desire to make other people’s lives better. These days, I’ve observed that we are all engrossed with technology and personal apprehensions that we do not mind others anymore.

This busy life does not allow us to pause for a moment and enjoy the flowers on the side of the road.

The truth, is we do not need to wait for Santa to fill our stockings. Just like my grandparents, we could bring gifts to the people we love and to those that we want to extend our hearts to. And I do not mean only material things or gifts under the Christmas tree.

We could give the gift of friendship, forgiveness and presence. May this season of giving illuminate our hearts and ease us of our worries. May we seize our moments and realize that we have come this far.

Behind the lights and the giant trees, Christmas is a simple commemoration of the goodness that lies inside us. Anyone can be the jolly man in red plush suit.

Anyone with a heart capable of sharing can give a gift that brings out the child in another person.

* * *

Floriane T. Taruc, 18, is a Grade 12 STEM student and editor of KuritBULAWAN, the official student publication of Ateneo de Naga University Senior High School.

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TAGS: Christmas, lolo and lola, Santa Claus
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