Without Lights

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It didn’t seem like Christmas.  There weren’t too many lights or Christmas trees, and the lanterns looked dim and grim.  Children no longer pass by at night playing tambourines and drums, and singing Christmas carols.  It looks like one of those ordinary days.  The sadness and bleakness of it all, though, is only highlighted and underscored by the fact that it’s five days until Christmas.

I wonder if Christmas forgot about us this year.  Too many things have happened over the past few months that maybe we do not have enough to celebrate with, or there’s just no reason to celebrate at all.  “Pasko na naman” no longer heralds the coming of the season, but has become a sort of warning.  Christmas is that time of the year where we spend bonuses on bills.  It’s that time of the year where one’s 13th month pay goes to 13 inaanak‘s.  Worse, with all the tragedies and calamities that befell the nation, there is no stable beam on the roof to hang a parol on.

The Scrooge in me goes “Bah, humbug” on every Christmas party I have to attend, but the child in me wonders where Christmas went.

It’s fairly easy to justify the melancholia in saying that it’s a most materialistic season: Christmas is the be-all-end-all of all Hallmark holidays.  It means nothing, for it has long been associated with merriment and festiveness that can only be achieved by material goods, possessions, and gifts.  Christmas won’t be Christmas without trees and gifts and tinsel and glowing lights, but you won’t go about celebrating the season if you’re out of a job, if people have died left and right, and if storms have swooped across the nation and left devastation everywhere.

“Meri Krismas,” coo the street children, tugging on whatever strings of mercy can be found in a twenty-peso bill that I can probably spare.  “Namamasko po,” pleads the old man who passes in front of the office building, asking for whatever help we can give him for the holidays.  They’re the people who never had to look for things like lights and Christmas trees and gifts wrapped in cheery – if not gaudy – wrapping paper, because they never had them.  Christmas, for them, is that one day of the year where people would usually be more compassionate.

I give away a few P20 bills and go my way, looking at Christmas displays that either I can’t afford, or I have no plans of buying.  There’s no other way I would celebrate Christmas than a dinner with the family, and catching up on sleep.  It seems to be one of those ordinary days, except for the fact that it’s Christmas soon, and somehow none of us can feel it.  No Christmas carols, no candy canes, and the only sign of the holidays is a bank account bloated once a year that would go to bills and promises.  That’s it, I guess, for this season.

Then again, if the story was true, there weren’t any Christmas lights or trees or threads of tinsel on the manger where Christ was born.  Christmas didn’t go anywhere, it’s just that we took it somewhere and it took us to places and experiences that were a far cry from what it truly means, that is if we really know the true spirit of the holiday season.  I guess it is Christmas, if we look for lights that shine from within.  Kindness, generosity, charity…

The twinkling in someone’s eyes, a glimmering in someone’s smile.

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