No country celebrates Christmas quite like the Philippines. From the bright lights to the festive sounds to the delicious smells of the season, there’s a lot to enjoy and look forward to. However, it is also entirely easy for the meaning behind the holiday—the holy day—to get lost in the merriment.
This year, let’s bring back the heart of Christmas with these gifts.
The Gift of Contentment
While everything around you shouts, “More! More! More!”, give your loved ones the gift of “enough.” Instead of focusing on what to buy them, spend some time going through your closets for usable items that can make others happy. You will find clothes that you rarely wear, and toys that you think your kids might want to play with someday—items that could bring happiness to someone else in need. It’s natural to want to keep things that we no longer have use for, but it is the act of letting go that makes us realize that we already have enough and that we can be content—happier, even—with less.
The Gift of Connection
This Christmas, teach your kids to importance memories, not money. As they receive the blessing of a “mano po,” encourage them to sit down with their elders and ask for stories. How did Lola start the family business? How did Ninang learn to cook that potluck favorite? What did Tito learn from his travels abroad? We often forget about the wealth of experience and wisdom our elders hold. And aside from learning from them, your kids will surely feel more connected to the storyteller—who may have started out an almost stranger if family gatherings are few and far between.
The Gift of Generosity
People—sometimes families—begging on the streets seem to multiply around the “ber” months, traveling to Manila from the provinces in hopes that the holiday spirit encourages people to open their hearts and their purses. Kids are often the most willing to give, until a parent tells them otherwise, for safety reasons or on principle. Pope Francis has said that giving “is always right,” specifically regarding those who ask for help on the streets. Be ready with spare coins or packs of biscuits for when you’re in the car or at the mall with your family. Model the proper way to give by looking the person in the eye and recognizing their personhood. You don’t know what they’ll do with your token, but perhaps more important is that for a moment, you made them feel seen, and perhaps even valued.
The Gift of Compassion
On that first Christmas, the Son of God came to Earth as a little baby. Yet it is often the smallest ones—the orphans, the children separated from their families, the little ones on the streets—who do not experience that redeeming love of God. Remember them during the holidays (and the whole year) by giving the gift of presence. Visit an orphanage or a children’s home, or volunteer at one so you can make the load lighter for those who carry the burden every day.
The Gift of Communion with God
Pray together through a prayer list. Pope Francis calls Christmas an “encounter with Jesus,” and what better way to do so than to speak to him directly. Use the list as a way to spend time with the person to find out what prayer they need. A co-worker may need a prayer for a health breakthrough. A relative may need prayers for a reconciliation in a relationship. A friend may need prayers to break free from an unhealthy emotional crutch. Share your list with your family and pray together for each other’s loved ones and friends. Make room for miracles.