This discussion has less to do with the religion that the birth of the Child named Jesus in the town of Nazareth had spawned. We’re not talking religion here. This discussion has everything to do with how the celebration of the birth of the Child named Jesus – Christmas – has affected the history of our country.
Rather than delve on the religious aspects of Christmas, it is our intention to explore the impact of Christmas on our social, economic and political life. We’re talking about our people’s history and how things could have turned out differently in the Philippines if we didn’t have Christmas.
To proceed with this exploration, we have to first examine the impact of Christmas in Philippine social, economic and political life. Factoring the other Christian sects with the 85 percent who are Roman Catholics, easily over 90 percent of Filipinos celebrate and internalize Christmas. Christmas is deeply enshrined in the consciousness of an overwhelming majority of Filipinos. Muslims here and abroad may not regard the Christ as we Catholics do but they do acknowledge Him for being a Great Prophet.
Christmas is not an ordinary Christian holiday. In many Christian nations, Christmas is now less celebrated and is being treated as just another public holiday. In the United States, Thanksgiving is generally regarded as a more important holiday event than Christmas. In non-Christian countries, however, they do mark Christmas for the commercial value of gift giving and celebrating.
In the Philippines, Christmas remains the single most important religious and public holiday. In fact, we Filipinos are known to have the longest celebration of Christmas in the world. Over here, starting with the second week of December, you can attend a Christmas party everyday without any break until December 26. This happens even during bad years of the economy.
As an indicator of Christmas season celebrations, Philippine roads – not usually the world’s safest on any day of the year – become even more dangerous during the Christmas season owing to the duly designated drunk drivers. You have to be extraordinarily careful during the Christmas season, especially at night when drivers are on the road after partying and toasting everything from A to Z. You would do well to presume during the season that every other driver on the road is dangerously intoxicated and has a poor control of the wheel, reflexes and senses.
The extraordinary way we Filipinos celebrate Christmas must also deliver extraordinary effects on our psyche as a people. Notice how the poor will strive, no matter what, to have enough money to celebrate a Christmas family reunion and repast. On Christmas day, all Filipinos must eat well. No matter the inconvenience and cost, notice how Filipinos will insist to come home from an overseas job to celebrate Christmas with the family.
That is because we have been conditioned to look at Christmas as the great annual event that sort of makes all things right for us. Many Filipinos will endure working under sub-human conditions if by the last month of the year they can celebrate a memorable Christmas with family and friends.
In the same token, Christmas can also be the season when disappointed, frustrated, disillusioned and severely depressed people tend to commit suicide. To a troubled soul, deep despondency during a season associated with love is something to die for. Think about it. When do you think is the lousiest time to lose a loved one, to discover a terminal disease, to wake up to a state of financial bankruptcy or to be handed a sentence of life imprisonment for the crime of rape and murder? Would you not pray: “Lord, I can accept all that on any other day but please do not impose it on me on Christmas Day?”
Being a yearend feel-good, being a yearend self reward, being a yearend eraser of possibly 11 months of regrettable memories – has Christmas saved our country from the long feared social explosion? Our Christian faith is said to have been the biggest impediment to the Communist threat in our country. Is it the religion or is it really the social impact of Christmas that deters Communism? Even Communist rebels yearn to be with their loved ones on Christmas. If we did not have Christmas during those years when we had a serious Communist threat – could we have successfully contained the insurgency?
If we did not have the Christmas factor in our society, would the oligarchy which controls economic and political power here have survived for so long? If we did not have Christmas, how long can the oligarchs last without 90 percent of Filipinos eyeing their hoard with envy and deciding to take it away from them. Since they have the numbers, what would prevent the majority who are poor from utilizing People Power and reversing personal fortunes?
If we did not have Christmas, imagine how much more violence there would be in our communities. Christmas is so powerful a tradition that folks who have never stolen anything before could be driven to commit armed robbery in their desperation to acquire the means to celebrate a Filipino Christmas. On the other hand, how much more violent would some folks become when they no longer have a Christmas to release 12 months of angst, tension, resentment, even oppression and deprivation?
We cannot thank Jesus Christ enough for Christmas. It’s time too that we extended the Christmas spirit to all the other days of our lives. Don’t you think it’s long overdue that we start living our lives as real Christians and care for the least of our brethren, as Christ had commanded us?
Here’s wishing you and yours the blessings, love and essence of the Christmas season.
* * *