Christmas is misunderstood.
All year long, Filipinos look forward to celebrating Christmas, but majority of the populace celebrate it for the wrong reasons. The Philippines is known to have the longest Christmas season in the world, yet this is more the result of the Filipino tendency to dwell on anything festive rather than people actually taking to heart what this season is celebrating.
We Filipinos bother too much with trivial commotion: the intricate decorations, the dazzling lights, the melodious carolings… we know the lyrics and the tunes of the Christmas songs by heart, yet these are but brightly-colored wrappers to a hollow present, shallow distractions that cover up the emptiness of the Filipino Christmas.
Let's be frank about it. People hardly look forward to Christmas because it is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Most people look forward to Christmas because of the shallow reasons of gifts, long holidays, and sumptuous feasts. I admit that I am a victim of this sentiment. During Christmas, the things I usually think about are the amounts I would receive from angpao, or the nostalgia-filled reunions, or the carefree vacations. To be honest, I only ever think about Christmas as a celebration of God's love after I stuff myself with the last piece of lechon or when I splurge using the angpao money and I feel the need to rid myself of guilt.
Those instances have caused me to ponder what the true meaning of Christmas is about, or if Christmas has a meaning at all. There is always this fuss about the true meaning of Christmas, but in fact the true spirit of Christmas is buried beneath the heaps and piles of insignificant fluff that most people associate with the Yuletide season.
What is this "true meaning" then?
Christmas is supposed to be a simple and solemn time of worship. We celebrate the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, birth of our Savior. We celebrate God becoming man out of His infinite love for us. It does not matter that these are Catholic doctrines, what matters is that these beliefs can add a little substance to a raucous and empty Christmas. Instead of immersing in worldly distractions, we have to prepare ourselves and at least attempt to be worthy of God’s love.
The sad reality is that Christmas nowadays is like a loud, wild party wherein everyone enjoys the company of one another but ignores the host of the celebration. The host invites and calls on everyone but they concern themselves with “better” things to do, like lavish gifts, luxurious vacations, and attractive decorations. They forget that the host is the reason why they were in the party in the first place.
It is ironic that we now celebrate Christmas with affluence and extravagance – high spending, overflowing food, and costly vacations, when in fact this extravagance contradicts the very milieu in which Christ is born – in the simplest venue possible, a stable. The first Christmas was a humble affair. God willed it that way. Who are we to contradict God’s example?
There is nothing wrong with festive expressions of Christmas, but they should not be the centerpiece of this Yuletide season. They can complement, but should never replace the position of God and His love as the main focus of Christmas.
The greatness of Christmas lies not in the jubilant celebrations, not even in the gift-sharing or family reunions; its greatness lies in the simple yet overlooked truth that the Christmas season celebrates the commencement of the ultimate sacrifice that led to human salvation, the manifestation of God incarnated into man, and the sublime reminder that God’s perfect love should be emulated by all, not just seasonally but for all time.