At Large

That fading Christmas spirit

/ 05:22 AM December 26, 2018

The other week, we made a shopping sortie to Landmark and found ourselves in the middle of a pandemonium. On the ground floor was a stage with a band and a singer “serenading” shoppers. Some stood transfixed before the stage, but the great majority were swirling about the shop floor, grabbing items (as I was) with urgency and eyeing competitors who were reaching for the same stuff.

We decided to divide our forces. My son, his wife and toddler decided to do the grocery shopping, while I, with reluctant hubby in tow, headed to the upper floors intent on crossing out the names of the children still on my list.


As we roamed the aisles, we heard the familiar cacophony of a marching band, and soon enough the band players led by miniskirted majorettes were wending their way through the narrow walkways. Our already slow progress through the expanse of playthings slowed to a crawl, as buyers paused in their fervid hunt to pause and listen and even shuffle their feet.

We decided to move back to the ground floor, where the band singer had paused in her labors, then, impelled by hunger and thirst and the need to recover from the dizzying crowd scene, we decided to move to the basement to rendezvous with the rest of the party.


To our dismay, the marching band seemed to have taken the cue and followed us to the basement. Nearly every table in the cramped fast-food hall was taken, and we had to clear a table of paper plates, plastic cups and boxes of “happy meals” to gain access to some seats.

The hubby found a stall selling sticky bibingka with coconut cream and native chocolate, and thus we quelled our grumbling tummies with these native sweets, evoking memories of long-ago “Simbang Gabi” feasts. But soon the reality of our surroundings took over. Christmas in Makati in the days approaching Dec. 25 could not have been farther from our cherished image of families using lanterns in the dark to guide their way to church for the dawn Masses. It was instead too bright, too noisy, and too costly. So much for the Christmas spirit.

By the time you read this, you would most probably have barely recovered from the late-night revelry of Christmas Eve (and the requisite belly-busting feasting!), plus the traffic-defying journeys from far and wide for Christmas Day clan get-togethers (and more gut-busting food!).

For most citizens, this day marks a temporary pause from the madness of Christmas, until the craziness erupts once more on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. And then, hangovers notwithstanding, it’s time to hit the road Jack — back to office commuting, paper-pushing, stressing about budgets and deadlines, rubbing elbows with the hoi polloi, dealing with bosses suddenly bereft of holiday bonhomie.

Thus are the highs and lows of adulting: making some money to indulge in the national madness of Yuletide cheer, while finding oneself in hock to credit card companies for expenses racked up in a foolish race to keep up with neighbors and friends.

We’re old enough to know that the manic magic of the holiday season is inevitably followed by the lows of debts incurred and the onus of monthly payments.

But year after year, we tell ourselves that the cycle is worth repeating, if only to glimpse the light of glee and gluttony in our children’s and grandchildren’s faces. But brief are the joys of the season. By this time maybe half of the toys would have been broken, the dolls missing limbs and hair, the monster trucks deprived of their wheels. But it is these same memories that sustain the young as they move on to adulthood, the lessons we have learned lost on them, fated to be repeated when their time comes.


If all of the above has sunk you further in a post-Christmas funk, my apologies. It’s just that one feels the steady beat of aging at times like this, when the energies of

everyone around us contrast sharply with our own fading joie de vivre. Call me in a few weeks and I’ll be fine!

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