I have way too many thoughts this Christmas season. Of course I’m the only one to blame for overthinking this holiday and needing to reflect on what Christmas means to me now that I’m 38.
I won’t deny that I’ve always loved Christmas because of the idea of presents. The excitement and suspense surrounding gift-giving is just irresistible and though it also creates much of the stress surrounding this holiday, I just think Christmas won’t be the same without it. I won’t be a hypocrite and say that it doesn’t matter if I didn’t give or receive any gifts during Christmas time. That would just be tragic. I love presents. It doesn’t matter how small or cheap it may be. It could be something bought or something personally created. Just wrap it and give it to me and I shall be fine…even if it’s just a piece of paper with beautiful words!
One fond Christmas memory I have is when I used to fuss over the many presents sitting and waiting at the foot of our Christmas tree when my Mom was not yet retired and still working. You see, she used to be the HR manager at the company she worked for her entire working life and every holiday season, she would get numerous gifts from everyone…coworkers, clients, friends, etc. And she would indulge me by not only letting me arrange them nicely under the tree, but most importantly by letting me open them, one by one, even BEFORE Christmas day arrives! She would let me choose and of course I’d start by choosing the more predictable looking ones or those in smaller boxes. I would normally save the fancier looking packages for Christmas day and my Mom was completely fine with this, letting me tear up all the wrappings and get all excited even though they were not mine. I just absolutely loved doing this!
Being Filipino, Christmas also naturally means family gatherings and lots of special food. Typical members of the holiday spread would be things like ham, spaghetti (Filipino style), pan de sal and queso de bola, fruit salad (again Filipino style), embutido (which is like meatloaf but more complex in flavor than the American one, in my opinion), chicken galantina (stuffed chicken), macaroni salad, bibingka and puto bumbong, and of course, if you have a lot of money to spend, there will be lechon. But even if we didn’t always have all these things, what was most important to me was spending it with my immediate family and my aunt’s family who resides just across the street. My siblings and I grew up with those cousins and I consider them my sisters and spending Christmas with them as we played games or exchanged gifts always made everything more memorable. It has been 13 years since I last had a family Christmas where we were all present. Since 1998, someone has always been abroad somewhere so I truly miss having a complete family. I continue to dream of being able to spend at least one more Christmas with everyone in my family present to celebrate this occasion.
There have also been lots of Christmases spent pining for a love life. With the holiday season being so focused on love and feeling loved, I do remember a number of years feeling utterly melancholic over the fact that I did not have a boyfriend. In 2001, when I first visited
my sister and her family made a huge mistake bringing me to the zoo. It was close to Christmas and they had some
special exhibit going on. Who would have
thought that the zoo could turn into lovers’ lane?! Everywhere I looked, there were couples
holding hands and cuddling and I swear to you, it took every drop of will power
in my system to resist the urge to bust out an uzi gun and randomly fire. I know that’s a horrible thought but I was in
a horrible place. Trust me. 2001 was rough…sweet, but still rough. Chicago
Then I got married and had a family of my own and Christmas became less about me and my needs. Focus went to my son, more than anything or anyone else and I now want to create our own traditions. A recent one we’ve gotten into is to do a Christmas movie night and for the past three years, it has been The Polar Express. All 3 of us LOVE this movie and Noah even likes to watch this even when it’s not December. Two nights ago, we had our movie night in our new home and it was a lovely family bonding time. Just sitting with my boys helped me put things in perspective. It is true that ‘sometimes the most real things in the world are things we can’t see’.
So you see, there are these different elements that all make for a meaningful Christmas and it could get confusing sometimes. A lot of times, my brain wants things streamlined, simplified or summarized. Though I am undoubtedly a sucker for complexities, I also desire clarity and want ideas that are easy to conjure and can serve as a clear guideline for me. I am happy to say that this year, at age 38, I have decided to summarize my belief about the meaning of Christmas this way…
…That Christmas is about following the star, just as the three wise men did.
The star could be many different things. The star being 'light' symbolizes wisdom, knowing what do do, how to act. It stands for hope, and ultimately love, as the birth of Jesus Christ meant the coming of salvation. Following the star also means following Christ, just as the wise men were lead to him. And to me, following the light, following Christ, means choosing the path towards your greatest self, journeying closer to the highest potential of your spirit, endeavoring to be as 'God-like' as you could be. In as much as the star helped the wise men navigate and find the manger, it also serves as our own inner compass today as it points us towards our north. If we all remember to follow the star, especially during (but certainly not limited to) this season, then it won't matter if we find ourselves enveloped by a sense of lack, surrounded by problems or disappointing and hurtful people or lack of material resources and other factors that create a less than ideal holiday scenario. We would just be reminded to follow the path of light, and act with compassion, trust, honesty, generosity, kindness, patience, gratitude and all else that aligns with light...love...Christ.
Have a Blessed and Bright Christmas, everyone! Let your light shine!