Almost Christmas

Something happens when you sit by a Christmas tree. Never mind that there is no one in the room with me


Our tree is up! It’s all lit and bright and beautiful! No new ornaments this year.   The old ones were all given a once-over and they are back up there, doing their best to bring sparkle back to the holidays. The main star looks regal. And the warm lights are bright and comforting.

It is Christmas. Well, almost. I started my Christmas list in October; halfheartedly, but I’m slowly getting there.  I miss the old ornaments that didn’t make it through the many moves and changes in my life. Sudden memories stir up inevitable tears.  Why is that? I couldn’t tell you.

Something happens when you sit by a Christmas tree, no matter where you are or who you are with. When the lights go on, immediately my heart stirs with the thrill of the season.  It warms me up and awakens emotions I can hardly explain.  Never mind that there is no one in the room with me.

I try to dismiss unsettling thoughts.  No sense to get maudlin. But after almost two years of mandated lockdowns and isolation, thinking happy takes some doing.

I truly wonder about the holidays.  Freedom to roam at this point seems just too good to be true.  Is it for real? Is there a catch? Is someone lurking out there just waiting to jump on me and march me back to my casita?

The other day I went out for a ride around our area and was amazed at the number of people out in the street. They looked happy. Relieved actually. It felt good to be out even if I was just inside the car. I was almost happy to be in traffic. I caught myself getting emotional. It takes very little these days.

Maybe these feelings come with age.  I don’t know.  A friend tells me it is an aftermath of the pandemic, a release from tensions, a hiatus from anxiety. He says many feel like I do.

But is it really over? True, the surges have weakened. The graphs indicate a definite downtrend.  Have we “flattened the curve”? I hope so. Experts also say that the virus and all its variants are here to stay; and that we just have to learn to live with them. So the shields are gone but the masks stay. People don’t seem as worried as before.   Now in the news, we are warned about “complacency”.

So what else has changed since Alert Level 2?

My friends and I are finally brave enough to make plans to gather. I now feel more comfortable getting away from the safety of my casita, no longer as anxious as I have been the last 20 months. I actually sleep better.  But I sometimes ask myself: have things really improved and turned around? Or have I just gotten used to being masked up and socially distant? And sadly I wonder if I will ever hug or be hugged  again.

 I will make trays of turkey….I called it ‘Lola-move’

As usual, my Christmas officially begins on Thanksgiving Day. Although some of my children will be out of the country, our Manila numbers still exceed old Covid limits. I don’t think we are ready for that. So, I will make trays of turkey and all the “fixins” and deliver to the children and grandkids.  It was a big hit last year.  I called it “Lola-move”.

So what is in store for Christmas 2021? This is, after all,  “the most wonderful time of the year”. At least that’s what the song tells us.

Christmas is more than Noche Buena, or singing carols and wrapping presents.  Remember the Grinch in the Dr. Seuss story?  “Maybe Christmas” he thought,  “does not come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.”

 Every year we hear the same comment that Christmas has been totally commercialized by big business and that the essence and spirit of Christmas has been eclipsed by greed. And we agree. But let’s face it, you and I have helped make Christmas what it has become.

Let us think back to what happened more than 2000 years ago in a little town of Bethlehem.   In my mind, I revisit the story of that first ever holy night.  There was no room at the inn. And I can see the bright star, the barren stable, the sleepy shepherds, the angels that were heard on high, heralding the good news to the world of “Peace on Earth and Goodwill to men”.

And what have we today? We have anything but a peaceful earth.  And let us not even mention goodwill toward men.

So how will we celebrate Christmas 2021? Each one of us needs to dig deep in his heart and find the answer to that one.

I don’t know about you, but it feels like there’s a big chunk missing from my Christmas this year.  Truth be told, it was missing last year too. I can’t really say what it is exactly.

The heart remains in ‘brace position’, expecting the worst

I know several people who have made the same observation.  One explanation is that the heart has braced itself too fiercely and too long against the fear and sadness of the past two years; that it has taken refuge in no longer feeling much of anything at all; that it remains in “brace position” as it were, expecting the worst. And now it is difficult to disengage and suddenly switch to a celebratory attitude.

They say this happens in turbulent relationships as well.  My daughter calls it “survival”. I can so relate.

And then I received email from a nephew in Sydney, an invitation to a pre-Christmas and Freedom (from lockdown) Day party. All my nieces, nephews, cousins and family who live Down Under are invited to his house. Just to be together. Does anyone need a better reason?

I am so tempted to pack my bags. Why not!

In the meantime, in our house we are ready for Thanksgiving.  Some of my children will not be around for turkey this year.  I am sad but I will not let it dampen my spirits.  I have decided to feast with and be thankful for those who will be here, at my table. And my prayer will be coming from deep within a heart on its knees in profuse gratitude for such undeserved favor from an all-giving and all-forgiving God.

And then time will speed up as it always does when you want it most to linger. Christmas will come and go, and before we know it, we will be toasting in the New Year.  And it will be 2022.  It will be a better year. I promise!  It just has to be.

One thing for sure, it will be interesting.  The national elections are not till May but as early as now it is looking like a circus, a chaotic parade of puppets and clowns, making noises like a merry-go-round spinning wildly off its axis not knowing how or where to stop.

 I found it! The perfect perch—for my pink parol!    

There will be nothing new.  The same hot air will blow.  We may see new faces and some not so new. We’ll hear the same old speeches. We will see the usual wheelers and dealers. There will be name-calling and back stabbing, you can bet on it. It will get ugly. It always does. But I will not allow all that drama to steal my joy.

The big day is almost upon us. Some will ask: “How can there be Christmas with all the misery and hatred around the world? I can almost hear Scrooge saying, “Bah humbug!” True, it has been far from merry out there.

And just briefly, my tinsel moment fades a little.

But I watch the neighbors put up a wreath on their red front door. It looks very pretty. Our helpers start testing the outdoor lights. I love all these unmistakable signs of Christmas.

And I feel a familiar tug in my heart. Could it be that I am getting into the spirit of things?

But wait!  Before I get carried away and do anything else, I need to borrow or buy a long ladder. We must reach the highest branch of the tree in front of our house.

At last!  I found it! The perfect perch—for my pink parol!

Read more:

What have we become?

My one year in captivity: Where are we?

My friend Nenuca wanted to go home

Biden inaugural: I ached to hear words that spoke to the soul

Wait for the dawn of a new day—can we do that?

Holy Ghost College: I lost my way home

I want my Christmas—now!

PNoy was my Clark Kent

About author


She was once a journalist with Manila Chronicle, a book author. She is a mother, a grandmother, a great grandmother whose wisdom and graceful writing style many readers continue to enjoy.

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