Culture Nurture: The Essence of Christmas in the Shadow of Commercialism By: James U. Sy Jr.
Villa Angela Christmas Dispaly, just in front of Sander's (James U. Sy Jr./NDB photo).
Christmas… the first things that come to mind are Christmas trees and Christmas lights, Santa Clause, Christmas shopping, Christmas parties, gifts, holidays/vacation, etc. Unfortunately, in the midst of all the revelry, many Filipinos tend to lose sight of the original purpose of Christmas.
The name itself is rooted in Christ, not a surname, but a title given to Jesus of Nazareth in the New Testament. The Hebrew Mashiach, which means “the Messiah/ Anointed,” has been translated to Greek Khrīstos, which gave rise to Crīst (genitive Crīstes). The Latin missa, which is the celebration of the Eucharist, led to mæsse. Taken together, we have the Middle English Crīstesmæsse, a phrase first recorded in 1038, and which gave us the Christmas of today - “Christ's Mass.” Thus, Christmas is actually a celebration for Jesus Christ, specifically his birthday.
The “Christ Mass” service was the only one that was allowed to be conducted after sunset (and before sunrise the next day), so Christmas is celebrated at midnight. Now you have an idea why we have Simbang Gabi.
Non-Catholic Christians (i.e. Protestants) have pointed out, on many occasions, that Christmas trees and Santa Clause, as well as the commercial trappings that go with them, have nothing to do with the birth of Christ (which is true actually). Some went even further by questioning the validity of December 25 as the “real” birth date of Jesus Christ. The simple truth is that the Bible did not state when Jesus was born so no one really knows his “real” birth date. The Catholic Church, through Pope Julius I, established December 25 as the “official” birth date of Jesus Christ, just a few years after the first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on that date (in 336 AD), during the time of Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor.
We have songs that tell us to “Give love on Christmas Day” and to share our blessings, values which form part of the foundation of the Christian doctrine and an illustration of our God being a merciful and forgiving one. Christmas is a chance to renew our bond with our family, whom we tend to neglect in the rush of our daily lives. It is also a time to thank God for the blessings He had given us. No matter how poverty-stricken we are, we are still blessed; all we need to do is to look at others and see that we are better off somehow. That’s why we have to share. It is Christmas and we are happy because we know that there is a God who looks after us and will help us face life with conviction.