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Christmas and Family Reunions (and why we get together)

24.December.2010

It’s that time of year again, when families and friends get together—in the spirit of the holidays.

All the hustle and bustle of the Yuletide season reaches its peak: when all the gifts have been bought and wrapped and you’ve made that long-planned trip to where you and your relatives will celebrate the holidays together.

The Cruz and Belulia family reunions are right around the corner. Here's hoping all goes well. (Credit: blog.myheritage.com)

To tell you the truth, I loathe going to family reunions; especially those that take place during the Yuletide season.

I don’t know about your family, but my family—and I mean the extended family, on both my mother and father’s sides—is chock-full of rare, raucous, rowdy characters.

The evening starts with the mandatory tour around the party venue, making sure to greet every relative I have inside the four walls of each room. These exchanges I find to be forced, if not scripted, dialogues filled with warm welcomes and how-are-you’s—the pretense I appreciate only because the other person makes the effort to make me feel loved and important, and vice versa. After completion of said task, I settle down into the seat I chose specifically for the purpose of getting a full view of the place, so I can be ready with what to say when a crazy relative starts to make his/her way towards me to make small talk or whatever.

Just as everybody’s done with their greetings, the habitual latecomers start piling in—these relatives of mine who have this completely peculiar notion of time. When everyone else understood that 8 o’clock meant you’re expected to be there before or exactly 8 o’clock, they thought everyone was supposed to start getting in after the designated time. So they make the mandatory rounds, and in time they find the remaining seats available.

Eventually, everyone settles down, each in his/her table, and we spend a little quiet time eating. Well, quiet only so long as food is stuffed inside our mouths, because after chewing and swallowing, we tend to sneak in a little comment here and there, though nothing loud enough as to disturb the entire neighborhood.

After having our full—and there’s always more food than the whole family can eat—all hell breaks loose. Literally.

Weird uncles, overbearing aunts, and frenzied cousins find themselves pooling together, eventually breaking into a loud, intolerable cacophony of sounds: the men talking about sports, politics, philosophy, and current issues of debate; the women, talking about showbiz, gossip, cooking tips, and fashion trends; the hyperactive little kiddos constantly on the move, dancing and singing, vying for everybody’s attention and working their little butts off for their gifts and extra holiday cash, courtesy of the doting uncles, aunts, and beloved grandparents—who are quite unperturbed even with all the chaos around them.

And if you think all that is awful, wait ’til someone breaks out the alcohol.

What was that quote about not being able to pick who you have as family? Oh, I remember. It goes:

You can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your family.

One of two (we spend the eve before Christmas with relatives from my father’s side, then we spend Christmas afternoon to evening with relatives from my mother’s side) family reunions I am required to go to is happening in a few hours, and it’s during these moments right before a holiday celebration that I always flashback to the first serious conversation my father and I had about the concept of holidays and how each ended up being celebrated on certain dates. For example, the celebration of Christmas every year on December 25th.

I argued that Christmas as we know it isn’t even historically accurate, and this applies even to the most devout Christian I know. I blamed commercialism and capitalism, for clouding the events that happened on the first Christmas, and for distorting the facts that are the very basis of this festive occasion.

I argued that most people, even Christians, don’t even realize that Jesus Christ was most likely not born on December 25th or even remotely close to that day. I argued that the three wise men didn’t even get to see the newborn Jesus with Joseph and Mary in the manger.

I argued, with much indignation, that human society—thanks to the commercialization of Christmas—annually quantifies the spirit of the season: we have effectively reduced it to counting how much money we can spend, how much gifts we can give, how many gatherings we must attend, how much time we can spend here and there; thus, the bull rush to the holidays unlike anything we experience all year round.

My father, with his calm, knowing eyes, looked at me and saw a teenager full of rationality and idealism, but needed to have reality slapped across his face.

He proceeded to tell me that what I said was true: yes, Christmas has, in fact, been commercialized; the story of Christmas most of us know to be historically accurate actually isn’t—Jesus wasn’t born on the 25th day of the last month of the year, and the wise men weren’t actually in the nativity scene; and, yes, thanks to commercialism and capitalism, we have reduced the spirit of Christmas into a holiday of quantity.

But the bottom line, he said, was that the version of Christmas most of us know, as far as it is from being accurate, tells a story that imparts a valuable lesson. It also doesn’t matter if we celebrate Jesus Christ’s birth on December 25th or any other day of the year, only that we celebrate it because it was a moment full of hope and joy for humanity.  And, though most people see Christmas as simply a time for buying, giving, and receiving gifts, there is no shortage of people who are aware of what this Christian season is all about.

During these moments right before a family reunion—when I’m trying to weasel my way out of it and when I’m ultimately unsuccessful in my attempt, and during the long trip to the agreed upon reunion venue—I look back to that conversation, and realize why we get together: we only get one life on this earth, so if there’s something to celebrate, it really doesn’t matter when or where we celebrate it—only that we celebrate it while we still can.

Even if I may be a little bit of a grinch during the holidays, I sincerely hope that my relatives and I continue to get together, as much as our busy schedules and tired bodies allow.

Happy holidays, everyone! 😀

* * * * * * * * *

WORD

1. Classy move from one of the classiest tennis players of all time, Roger Federer.

2. Phoenix Suns trade JRich, Turk, and Earl to Orlando Magic for Vinsanity, Gortat, and Air France. I’m going to wait around and see how this all plays out, but from what I can see as early as now, it’s all good.

3. The Azkals lost to Indonesia, but the magic lives on.

4. Pacquiao – Mosley. May 7, 2011. Bring. It. On.

5. Looking forward to the Heat-Lakers game, Christmas afternoon (which will be televised around eight in the morning the next day here in Manila). This article by John Schuhmann ought to whet your appetite.

SHAME

1. This is just an abuse of the media and the reading public, not to mention the couple’s former families affected by the publication of their private lives.

Read the whole New York Times article here.

2. Yao’s NBA career could be over. I hope not.

3. Tuguegarao fire. My prayers and condolences to everyone who lost someone to that dreadful fire.

4. Larry Brown steps down as Bobcats head coach. Thanks, Coach Brown. You’re one of the best people to ever coach in the NBA. Which is why we’ll see you around, for sure. Be well.

* * * * * * * * *

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

The Nativity invites us to enter into that most sacred space, from within which alone we can take a hard look at ourselves, and see to what extent we have violated the common good by unlawfully usurping upon public space, and all because of our illusion of being the center of the world.”

~Remmon E. Barbaza (associate professor in Philosophy at the Ateneo de Manila University), from his commentary entitled “The Nativity and public space” published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, December 20th, 2010

 

20th

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 25.December.2010 7:42 am

    Hi Jedo!
    Came to visit your blog since you were nice enough to comment on mine. It seems like we have polar opposite Christmas experiences this year, although my childhood celebrations roughly equaled yours (even down to dad’s side on Christmas Eve and mom’s side Christmas Day). 🙂 With all the cousins grown, married, and scattered across the US, it’s harder for us to gather in one place at one time. I know I miss the tradition, chaotic as it was. Hope you survive and have a Merry Christmas!

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