Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


Christmas will happen — surrender to it

Posted on December 20, 2014 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 21, 2014 – 12:00am

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The build up to Christmas is full-on. The pace is not the same for everyone. For some, it began sometime in September when yuletide carols started playing on the radio.

That’s way too early for me and a lot of people I know. I find it premature to start feeling all good and Christmassy when it won’t be around for another four months. But for some, September is the wonderful kick-off that starts their anticipation of the holiday.

I must confess that in recent years, I haven’t been a big fan of Christmas. It has been draining — physically and monetarily, and stressful. The huge expenses, the endless parties, the rush to finish pending jobs and the gargantuan traffic jams everywhere in the city have just been too much for me. I have felt all sorts of emotions but good cheer; jolliness and glad tidings have barely been on my list.

I know this sounds awful and it makes me sound like Scrooge but I’ve been saying for years now that I wish we would all agree to celebrate Christmas only every two years. People should not be subjected to the torture of holiday frenzy and madness only to start the new year burdened with the season’s shopping debt, physical exhaustion, and extra unwanted pounds.

But Christmas will happen no matter how I feel about it. And like people who are told they have a serious illness, I still go through the stages of shock, anger, denial and bargaining before I surrender to acceptance and get into the holiday mood.

As I write this, I see the house all decked out and it is beautiful. I must admit I feel good about it. I appreciate how much Lydia planned the look and put up the décor in our new home. For the past few nights, I’ve been playing Christmas music, which always brings back that feeling of sweet melancholia that goes with the season.

There are no “visions of sugar plums dancing in my head,” as it used to feel like when I was a small boy. Today, I am going through a replay of a mix of memories of Christmases past, accompanied by sweet sadness and appreciation.

This makes me feel good, melts a lot of my resistance, and relaxes me until I begin to fully embrace the inevitable. My negativity recedes somewhat and I begin to look forward to the good things that will happen soon.

I’ve begun counting the days when my kids will be home from Sydney. As a parent with grownup kids who have their own lives, these opportunities for togetherness are becoming fewer and far between. I am looking forward to long conversations during meals, lots of laughter, and a short vacation for some good family bonding.

Lydia’s sister in the US, her kids with their spouses and children, will also be coming home and staying with us. That should be a lot of fun, too.

There will be a lot of kids in the house. Aside from my grandchild Ananda and Lydia’s relatives, my siblings, their children and grandchildren will be here for Noche Buena. That’s a big, loud fun party right there.

I have decided to bring back some of the lost spirit of Christmas. There is a beautiful passage from Dr. Seuss that touched the Grinch in me, which goes, “‘What if Christmas,’ he (the Grinch) thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more?’”

Indeed.

I don’t need to be swept away by the forced “glee” that commercialism imposes on everyone. Instead, I will be attending Simbang Gabi as often as I can. I will also try to be more pleasant and kinder to everyone. I will soak in all the family love. I remember fun Christmases in the past that had little to do with the gifts I received, Christmases that were all about giving not only material gifts but more of my time and effort. It was what people did to make the season merry and meaningful.

Lydia and the household help prepare very early for the holidays. I often complain about how stressed she gets, and how all the preparations leave everyone too tired to enjoy Christmas when it finally comes. But the holidays are special precisely because of their efforts. They are like Santa’s mythical elves who make sure Christmas is wonderful.

Our Christmas tree is decorated with paper flowers Lydia made while praying for friends and family who need it. We can honestly say our tree is bedecked with prayers! I must take the time to appreciate all that.

Lydia takes Christmas very seriously in both its outer and inner meaning. As much as she dresses up the house and plans the parties and gift-giving, she makes sure we light up the advent candles and gets everyone to pray around the advent wreath. She also donates her resources to a charity that helps make Christmas special for a few needy people.

I must stop looking at this season as an ordeal that must be overcome. I must adopt a positive state of mind and be open to what Christmas really means — a decision to live the spirit of love and sharing and bring goodwill to all people — something the world desperately needs.

To paraphrase a Zen saying, the Christmas spirit you will find under the tree and mistletoe and in your belen will, in the end, be the same spirit you brought there.

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