It’s only the trendy decors that really change, but for most of us, Christmas pretty much flaunts the same picture every year: malls extending ‘til late nights due to our incurable need for last minute shopping, alcohol-induced merry-making lasting until hours of Simbang Gabi, ham, bazaars, more ham, and reunions where every humble home attempts to be more Instagrammable than the last.
Christmas is a magical thing, as many ads and well-meaning ninangs tell us. By this time, there’s a torrent of photos that has washed over our feeds, showing wine glasses or cinnamon buns spread over the season’s most festive mantles. It gets more predictable each year, but December’s best and most bizarre traditions haven’t exactly lost all their glitter. In a year where change just keeps on coming, some undying predictable idiosyncrasies (“Wear white as mom requested.” “Start the countdowns.” “Go to church.”) surprisingly keep us sane.
Case in point, it’s still tempting to buy that overpriced holiday-themed coffee, all for a planner or for some personal tradition we’ve kept and outgrown some Decembers since. A lot of us follow holiday rituals as reverently as churchgoers completing their nine masses. We don’t expect a miracle out of it, but sometimes December’s Disney-like enchantment owes itself to those. To some, sure, it can be repetitive (think true love and partridges and pear trees). But to a nostalgic few, listening to Jose Mari Chan may still be a guilty pleasure.
More often than not, traditions herald serious throwback, especially when distant ninangs start reminding us of our cuter, innocent selves before all the belly bloating. We still attend high school reunions when we’re feeling sociable, sharing booze with accountant and doctor friends with whom we now hardly have anything in common—except maybe that memory of winning best performance at a Christmas party, or other stories from the good ol’ nene days.
So maybe the holidays are about remembering and giving relevance to things that no one gives a sh*t about. Or suspending our obsessive need for moving forward, in favor of remembering happier times.
Especially in the year that gave us every imaginable nightmare before Christmas—from the death of David Bowie, to bombings and daily killings, and dictators-turned-government- validated-heroes —2016 ending might be what all of us are most thankful for.
Lately, headlines have become as surreal as Santa drafting and punishing a list of naughty kids, Facebook has become a harbinger of horrifying news, and our posts are basically just adding to the collective cry of “F*ck you, 2016!”
Where social media was once the great addictive anesthetic—antidote to lonely Friday nights when we’re feeling friendless, or bad days when we’re feeling bored—it’s now become the soapbox where we voice out our collective woes on a sh*tty year. “Our feeds enable a constant consumption of the world’s hurts in a way that opens hearts but stokes hopelessness,” goes an article in The Atlantic.
Santa, ultimate mascot of innocent Christmas fantasies, was probably spun out of excessive holiday nostalgia. Thanks to elves, hallmark cards, and fake snow in Manila, holiday icons (or at least shopping mall decors) point to Christmases past and merrier, albeit nonexistent, times.
We can’t be grown-ups mailing our world peace wishes to some imagined North Pole, but maybe decking the halls with boughs of plastic holly may just get us off the Cloud, giving us a break from being year-long raging keyboard warriors.
It’s that once-a-year occasion when the b*tchy officemate becomes gift-giving Santa with shady motives—social obligation, peer pressure, or sheer goodwill? The spirit of gladsomeness may well convince us it’s the last. Maybe Jose Mari Chan’s wistful lyrics may convince us that there’s still love in this world, contrary to popular belief, and reconnecting with real friends and family, after months of battling trolls, can remind us that true humanity still exists.
It’s a holiday borne of wishful thinking, sure. But as Wes Anderson’s flamboyant concierge once put it, “There are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity,” and it becomes most apparent during this holiday called Christmas.
Keeping traditions become our constant in an age where current events are just too much, and at the end of a sh*tty year, we feel like Christmas—the holiday, the merriment, the display of goodwill or the semblance of it—is something we (hope to) finally deserve.