A Christmas Carol

by Juseph Elas

Christmas season, it’s supposed to be a happy one where family members extend warm hugs to one another, greet one another with welcoming smiles, and everyone shares the love and the happiness that entail the birth of the child Jesus. It’s the season where jack frost sits on top of a lamp post, watching passerby with thick woolen mittens; it’s when girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes meet the gaze of guys in warm coats with friendly smiles.

It’s supposed to be.

I grew up to a family that celebrates the Yuletide season in a not-so-extravagant and not-so-Western manner. Sure we cook spaghetti, fried chickens, and hotdogs. Mom would always prepare a tupper-full scrumptious fruit salad and dad would couple that with a flavour or two of ice cream. But never was it a celebration where we need to dress up for the occasion or prepare gifts for everyone and never did we took a family picture while waiting for the clock to strike, say, nine o’clock.

Our’s is a celebration of a normal semi-plebeian family. Regardless of that fact, we celebrated the past Holidays with joy as we are complete around the table of plenty. Simple it may be, but still it was meaningful.

But time has changed. In 2006, my dad had to leave for abroad. The first year without him was a bit hard for the family to endure because my dad – honestly speaking  – is the star of the table. He is this figure that would tell us that the family is intact and whole and happy and withstanding. When he left, a lot has changed in the way we celebrated the Holidays. It’s as if the magnet that holds us whole can no longer hold us like it used to.

But we are Filipinos, at the end of the day. And Filipinos are these people that will survive regardless of what storm may have struck them and their faith. We managed and we rose to the occasion as a family with my dad always reminding us to stay strong and happy; that despite his distance, geographically, we still have him in our hearts. He would always remind us that he had to do what he did for our future. That is why the succeeding Holidays weren’t as hard as the first.

(I just noticed how but-filled this entry is. Oh well…)

I liked those previous Christmases, you know. This year, however, I was gripped with sadness as we celebrated noche buena away from the rest of the family. My older brother and grandmother flew to Cebu and decided to celebrate the Holidays there with my cousin. To me, the decision to leave was okay; my grandmother needs some break from all the stress here anyway. It really saddened me a lot because the house was enveloped by an atmosphere that is alien to me; the absence of joy and laughter and the crisp of happiness in the air was very much visible.

I know I should get used to such setting because it won’t be long before I’ll graduate and have to leave the city and work and I might not be able to go back in time for Christmas. Also, I don’t want to leave my mother hanging and lonely during the most wonderful time of the year. But reality is reality.

The way I see it, the sadness during Christmas this year, I can relate to the way my dad is feeling whenever the Holidays would come. The paralyzing horror of being away from the rest of the family? A slice of an OFW life during Christmas season. And no matter how hard I try to comfort myself with happy thoughts of the past to ease the sadness, I could not stop wishing that my dad, older brother, cousins and grandmother were here.

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