It’s not strange that the tune ringing in my head over the last few days has been “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas...”. It’s exactly a week from now to my most anticipated holiday of the year. Well, it used to be. After living in Thailand for almost four years, and missing two Christmases at home, my life has seen some changes.
From where I live now, it’s definitely not looking a lot like Christmas. In a country that’s primarily Buddhist, in a region mostly inhabited by Muslims and Buddhists (I live in the south), I’m lucky if I hear yuletide jingles anywhere. So I no longer look forward to it that much. I also abandoned drafting a Christmas wish list two years ago.
But the fact that I’m subconsciously humming “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...” while driving, still pretty much proves I'm not yet fully detached from it all. So in lieu of a wish list, I’ve decided to take you with me on a stroll down my Christmas memory lane.
Of course, what would this season be without the mention of glorious food? I miss Christmas day lunches with the whole extended family crowding around the dinner table. Slowly chipping away the crispy lechon skin over endless conversations. Oblivious to time, the talks only come to a halt when everyone realizes the pig has been totally de-skinned. It’s at this time waistlines and cholesterol levels burst through the roofs. And manufacturers of Lipitor and Zocor are sporting big smiles. So are med rep friends who promote them.
Y U M M Y
Christmas day mass is also an event I never miss. All churches are packed with regular and sporadic church-goers looking extra smart in their newly bought/received outfits. When I was young, I distinctly remember that I’d only leave the house garbed in brand new garments from head to toe. It was a requisite to look extra good for baby Jesus, I was told. A moment for me to relish too, considering it was the only time, aside from my birthday, that I would get new clothes!
The joys and pains of shopping can never be better felt than at this time of the year. To some, it becomes a spiritual experience all together. “Tis the season to be jolly!” and so they say, “SHOP!”. The time of the Christmas bonus and the 13th, 14th or 15th month pays bring to life a frenzy in every mall, horrendous queues at the ATMs and taxi stands and cardiac arrest-inducing traffic all over the metro. I plead guilty to this, I once spent half of my hard earned year-end pay the minute it was credited to my account, all in one day. And when the season leaves, depression hovers in after receiving your credit card bills and bank statements. Thank God I’ve shaken off this holiday hysteria.
But I what I truly remember and sorely miss about Christmas is the feeling. The Christmas spirit everyone hears and talks about. But what is it? There’s no definition for it really, you can only describe it. It’s that amazing feeling you get when you see the face of your laundry lady when you hand her your pinaskuhan. It’s the warm smiles and genuine appreciation from the neighborhood “wash-your-car” boys for your old, worn-out clothes. It’s the pancit bihon and fruitcake sent over by your neighbors. It's the deafening sound of Judas' belt hanging from a VECO post threatening to shatter your windows. It’s the sekwati and puto you delight in after every "Simbang Gabi". It’s that selfless act of forgiving and the rekindling of tarnished relationships. And It’s that overwhelming feeling when the clock strikes twelve and people are gathered at their dining tables. Family and friends. Rich and poor. United, through a common prayer of thanks and affirming that there is hope for everyone, everywhere.
It's truly an amazing feeling. And though my Christmas experience is no longer as intense as it once was, the spirit never really parts from you. So I take back what I've previously said. I haven't really discarded my Christmas wish list. I just trimmed it down to a bare minimum. No more tangible things this year.
Lord, I know you're listening... Please, please make me a DJ :-).
Merry Christmas, Krub!