Monday, December 24, 2012


OK, I'm glad it's soon going to be over.

It happens every year.  Nothing has changed.  You tell yourself you will not allow the natural course of the Universe to disrupt your equilibrium by the virtue of pre-planning.  You remind yourself that as soon as the "Ber"-months come marching in, you will start your Christmas shopping.  And why?

What is the advantage of starting to buy all your Christmas gifts as early as September?  Simple. You don't even need Martha Stewart to remind you that it's a good thang. It all boils down to common sense because:

(A) You tend to spend less if you have more time to shop and select gifts for the names you included in this year's list.  Panic buying means unreasonable spending.  And you remind yourself of all the sales that are ongoing all year round.  As long as you give gifts which not perishable, then why not get them before everybody else goes into a panic mode to get something if not any thing for everyone?

(B) You have greater chances of getting the most appropriate gift for each and every appointed recipient.  Because, come on ... face it!  When there is too little time to dilly-dally and to seek for the specific amid the foray of shoppers, you grab what you think is the closest thing to decent ... regardless of whether or not who you will give it to will appreciate your idea of spontaneous discrimination.

And, most, importantly:

(C) You get to spend more time to savor the act of gift-giving.

The process of gift-giving into three stages:

(A) The excitement of the hunt
(B) The ecstasy of finding the right gift ... otherwise known as the Eureka moment and
(C) The creative challenge of gift-wrapping or the art of packaging.

You see, there is a separate thrill in wrapping presents.  Whereas others settle for the cut-and-dry department store wrapping department (where you will be indulging in extra spending but leaving your fate to the skilled hands of others), there is nothing personalized about generic wrapping.  Chances are, the present will be wrapped in paper emblazoned with the logo of the store --- and everything about the gift is just so ... standard.  Yes, it will look decent. It will be neatly done. It will be impeccable in its quality. Much like a cute middle-aged nun.

But then there are only a few who would take time to indulge in such matters.  What is important is that you get through that Christmas list fast before everyone else plunges into the capitalist whirlpool while department stores are blasting "O Holy Night" mashed up with "Jingle Bell Rock."

Really: many (like me) feel ambivalent about Christmas.  Some even forget that indeed the reason why we deck the halls with boughs of holly is because we are celebrating the birth of a man who changed the entire course of human history more than two thousand years ago.

Nowadays it has all boiled down into, well ... the thirteenth month salary, the Pavlovian response to hearing Christmas carols piped into the sound systems of malls and department stores. It is all about the colorful lights and lanterns that line up the city or even embrace the very structure of buildings in the little patches of the metropolis.  It is all about the food, the tiangges, the parties.  It is all about the ham, the fruitcake, the smell of special dishes cooked during the season that fills the house with so many memories of years.

It is all about the Christmas tree.

And these are what make Christmas beautiful.  It is all about the memories --- and how we keep on adding more and more remembered moments into that treasure box that we gift wrap as a present to ourselves.  That is the gift that we unwrap each year to validate all the harassment, all the fatigue (yes, fatigue) and all the traffic we have to endure each time we have to brave the thoroughfares that cut across the city.

Christmas is both fun, funny and a nightmare.  Now that it is the Big Night right before all the reunions where friends, family and familiars will gather together to affirm and reaffirm the validity of clan and social unit.  Although there is supposed excitement in that, the truth is that this has become a ritual.  

Christmas has become a very good reason for relatives living in lands far away to come home to roost: not only are the bonds of family and friendship reinforced by the need to regather and reaffirm.  The reason goes far deeper and wider than that: it has got something to do with assurance, reinforcement and even re-energizing. Christmas becomes a reason (if not an excuse) to manifest this need for regrouping in order to assure ourselves that despite how far we are compelled to leave our homes to find work or to rebuild our own world, we still come back ... we still come home.

So despite all the effort put in buying gifts, cooking the best food and dolling up the house with fairy or LED lights, the bottom line is that these are not and can never be everything that Christmas can mean to us.  Yes, there is that joy ... another Eureka moment when you hand that gift that you braved seas of shoppers in the mall to obtain.  There is that quiet thrill in anticipating the reaction of the person the moment he unwraps his or her present.

But more than that, it is the joy of knowing that there is someone who you thought about, tried to figure out and eventually rewarded with a gift to show that there is something between the two of you ... in the context of the season.

Christmas is both a sad and happy affair.  It has got nothing to do with how much you've got ... or what sort of presents you gave and received this year.

Christmas is happy because it brings people together.  But it is sad that materialism has so crept in that we often mistake the ties that bind us with what we can buy rather than what we can feel.  If it has reached a point of quantifying your love by what you can offer in terms of the purchasable and the perishable, then Christmas becomes nothing more than capitalist exploitation.

Christmas is happy because it gives us an excuse to be foolish, to return to our childhood and to baste on the familiar to give us a sense of tradition.  But it is sad for those who have no one and nowhere to come home to ... because, most definitely, Christmas is not a good time to spend alone.

Many of us are relieved. By this time, all the dishes have been cooked and ready to be served.  The kids are restless because they can't keep their eyes (and hands) from the gifts that are deposited under the beautiful tree. And a number of us are too exhausted yet mustering our energies to get us through this night ... and the whole day of tomorrow when the endless family reunions demand exchanges of anecdotes, memories and Instagram photos to record yet another year in our lives.

And after all that trouble of having to plow through traffic, get the right gift, have it wrapped in the most creative and exquisite fashion, tomorrow morning the entire living room shall be a mountain of debris of torn Christmas paper, loose ribbons and stray pieces of transparent Scotch tape.  After all that trouble ... there will be another Christmas coming soon next year.

Then it is back to the same cycle all over again.

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