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Christmases past and present

By BARBARA GONZALEZ- VENTURA, The Philippine STAR Published Dec 20, 2020 5:00 am

Is it really almost Christmas? In our home there are no Christmas carols. That’s because I have no Spotify and am not in the habit of using my cell phone as a radio. Instead, before we sleep, we watch YouTube. He watches films about World War II and I play games on my phone. 

Lately we had to get a new Apple TV because the old control gave up the ghost. It was nicely set up by his son, but I have not learned to navigate it well. I know by New Year’s I will have learned. But these days I can only watch movies on it. 

I have finished 202 rosaries, made by my wrinkled and veined hands, packed in little red bags, tied with a small card and delivered. Those were the sum of ordered pieces so far. Right now I still have orders for January and February. After I sent off the last package I felt unwell. Unhappy. Unsettled. For maybe two months I had spent almost every day making rosaries. Then, suddenly, I had nothing to do. I started to make another rosary but stopped. Who was it for? I realized then that I liked making rosaries for people I knew. I must change that. I must program myself to just make rosaries, to design them well. That’s a lesson for 2021.

Why is Christmas not in the air? The weather is hot. The air is not cool. Our home does not have a single ornament because I have been busy making rosaries. Usually I like to invent Christmas trees. I have had every conceivable Christmas tree — Baguio pines, imported pines, mobiles that I made myself, little trees that I made myself. This Christmas we will have none. It’s just my husband and me who will celebrate it. He doesn’t decorate or look for decoration. He doesn’t give gifts on birthdays and holidays. And there is quarantine so we will probably just stay home. I ordered roast chicken to celebrate — and that I don’t have to cook. I have had to cook turkey for Christmas for too many years.

Maybe that’s why Christmas should be very simple. I think it should somehow be inside of us this year. We can sit and remember the best Christmases we had, the most memorable, how our homes smelled of Baguio pine. Now that scent is lost to us forever unless we live on the outskirts of Baguio. 

And that is the celebration for me. First, I have a reason for not celebrating Christmas with trees and trimmings and turkey. It’s quarantine and quarantine prohibits almost all that. Quarantine makes us think of Christmas as “Quaristmas” —  not to eliminate Christ, but to understand that this year is different; 2020 is different. Did you get the text that says if you take your age and add it to the year of your birth you will get the sum of 2020? It works! It’s amazing! (Either that, or simple addition.) That shows us that 2020 is a really unusual year that ends with the Star of Bethlehem, which again will only show this year, after I can’t remember how many years.

Maybe that’s why Christmas should be very simple. I think it should somehow be inside of us this year. We can sit and remember the best Christmases we had, the most memorable, how our homes smelled of Baguio pine. Now that scent is lost to us forever unless we live on the outskirts of Baguio. 

Of course we have the belen, or the manger. It is at every church, in almost every home. But do we stop and imagine how Mary felt while giving birth to the Baby Jesus? Do we women remember the pain of childbirth? Maybe we should on Christmas Day. We just celebrate the birth of the Baby Jesus because He is the Son of God. But what about the pain that turned Mary into Mama Mary? Surely we have to thank her for that and St. Joseph, who must have felt anxious. He was a carpenter. What did he know about helping a woman to give birth? What did he know about how to cut an umbilical cord? 

We see the belen, the manger, that’s part of the celebrated scenery, but we do not meditate on the anxiety and the pain that made that beautiful scene with shepherds and sheep and the Magi and the Star of Bethlehem possible. Maybe this year it is time to contemplate that. It will help us understand how we women relate to Mama Mary through the pain of childbirth and how men can relate to the quiet St. Joseph, who must have gone through some frazzled moments helping with the birth of a baby whom he accepted as his own even if he knew he was not the child’s procreator. 

There are many insights to be gained by going into the preparations for what seems to be a very peaceful Christmas scene. Thus we enter the soul of the belen and we celebrate the birth of the Baby Jesus more deeply in our hearts. That is the real meaning of Christmas.

That’s what I mean when I wish you, “Merry Christmas!”