By Marivir R. Montebon
I grew up celebrating Christmas in the most joyous of ways in my home country, the Philippines, which lies in the Far East. In fact, my heart can still vividly recall the jubilation of my youth during this season. It has molded many of us that at this time, we think of what gifts to give our friends, parents, and teachers. It is also the time of family get-togethers, and of parties with friends and work colleagues. Despite the year-long challenges and difficulties, most Filipinos look forward to Christmas as a time of togetherness and gratitude. This value I so hold dear, despite my relocation in the US.
The Philippines is host to the longest Christmas celebration in the world. When the Roman calendar enters the “ber” months (September, October, November, and December) up until January of the following year, it is Christmas in the Philippines. The long celebration is not surprising because the Philippines is the only predominantly Catholic country in Asia, being a colony of the Spain for over 300 years.
Spain and America have made the celebration of Christmas in my country highly religious and yes, highly commercial. But in that outright imposition of power and influence, lies the personal impact of thoughtfulness and unity that bind families and friends together. It has become a welcome culture among us, and has meant to have some functionality in our practical lives.
For someone growing up in the merriment of Christmas, any attempt to equalize its celebration with the other holidays in the name of religious equality (at least by one atheist group) in the US, is to me unnecessary, insensitive, and truly disrespecting.
American leaders have so much major concerns to get busy themselves with, instead of working on legislation to stop the greeting of Merry Christmas or changing the name Christmas tree into something else. I just wish they let the culture of faith and positivity, which is getting more and more scarce these days, thrive.
The issue at hand is not much on religious equality, but rather supporting, instead of suppressing each religious celebration’s expression of unity and faith.
Christmas in the East and West may have clearly distinct faces and depth. In the US, one could get drowned by the spectacle of bright neon Christmas lights and fireworks and awesome extravaganzas of stage shows, and short-time parties.
In the East, one could just be touched by a community of neighbors who have long lived the tradition of potluck Christmas parties. The sharing of food and organized gift giving have strengthened their bonds of fraternity.
Despite the differences, the message of the man larger than life, whose influence has spanned more than 2000 years, is about sacrificial love and sharing and giving. This value never goes old-fashion or outmoded. It is the continuous call of the day, it is what the world hungers from.
And so, Merry Christmas! Let it be.