Christmas to me is a mishmash of religious and cultural moment, a great deal of fun piled on top of an uplifting story that must be taken on faith by those of the faith. By mishmash, I mean a glorious concoction of memories and traditions and stories and spiritual awakening.
I've been to Bethlehem. It exists. It is a grubby little town in the middle of a pile of rocks that today people fight and die for, because not all of them believe the same story. They don't have bamboo in the West Bank of Israel, so most of the houses are made of stone. They have lots of that. The old and the new are shabby, worn places. But heroes seem seldom to be born in large rich homes.
Jesus is a historical figure, rather like Joseph Smith, I suppose, who led 10,000 Mormons in covered wagons across the Great American Plain to Utah. Clearly, people trusted him with their lives, and believe he is close to God. A lot of what is attached to Jesus is mostly allegory, I suspect, or incidents embellished for the lessons therein. But it is meaningful for the importance people put on it. The first of the gospels was written something like 30 years after his Jesus' death. I've long suspected that maybe the recollections were a bit fuzzy or patched together "as best as I can recollect". But that does not make them any less profound.
The birth date of December 25 is pure fiction, as is the way Jesus looks in this glorified painting or that. His dark skin has been sent to Bello's for lightening. I also know that when I go to Hell, the destination Proud Pinoy and Pastor Earnie are convinced I am heading, I at least know I will have some hearty companionship, for John Clease and the rest of the "Life of Brian" cast will be there. Clease is among the funniest men on earth, and his "Fawltey Towers" BBC series is among the funniest cheap television shows ever done. A handful of quick-witted people and a set.
"The Life of Brian" is a parody about the life of Jesus. The wrong Jew . . . Brian . . . is picked as the next Savior, and the cast slapsticks its way all the way to the cross, upon which Brian and his compatriots break into a delightfully cheery closing song. If you can get this movie, buy it or rent it. But I warn you, it is not for those who take their religion seriously. However, the more you know about the incidents in Jesus' life, the more meaning is attached to the riot of satire that is the life of Brian.
Santa and Jesus. Now there is a pair of characters joined at the Christmas tree, along with angels and elves. What a happy crowd they make.
The Salvation Army dings bells for dollars and the Catholic Church bongs mass for souls. Somewhere in the distance, loud Christmas music is spreading the joy.
Never mind that our part of the world never gets snow and the holiday pine trees are made of plastic.
Orange is for Halloween, the anti-Christmas Holiday. It's for voodoo and magic and why am I writing about that? Superstition and fairy tales are where you find them, I guess.
We had fireworks at midnight on Christmas Eve. The little lady coughed up P 4,000 to buy some roman candles that were really wimpy, fizzling off two red blobs each, and some outta-sight rockets that shot up like professional fire-works, exploding above the house in reds and purples and whites. I'm amazed at this stuff. The biggest had 25 mini-rockets packed in a 5 by 5 cluster, like anti-aircraft rockets. Light the fuse and run. Every explosion went off like it was supposed to, with the finale being a beautiful waterfall of white crackling firecrackers. No one lost any fingers, arms or eyes this year, and the tin roof of the house did not burn.
The fireworks were made in the Philippines.
We should put those people in charge of the legislature and we might get the HR and Divorce bills passed. Or at least let them defend the Spratleys.
Surrounding that celebration was about three days of eating and people visiting in search of food and a gift. Every relative who can imagine a box on the family tree crawled up the National Highway to the rich niece's place. Not to mention the carolers who seemed to arrive at the most inconvenient time, and sang loud enough, if not always on key . . . and not exactly for the joy of it. Ulterior motive was behind the caroling . . . caroling for cash.
The Philippines is the reverse of the U.S., where caroling spreads the joy of the season to others. Hmmmm, when did I write that Filipino brains were installed in reverse ? I guess it takes money to get them turned around. (Or they have to be turned around to get money??) Chickens and eggs forever . . .
We also had a Christmas morning gift bonanza for the kid, who doesn't quite understand Santa but welcomes what he brings, mostly toy trucks and books. Anybody trying to touch his goodies is in for a snarl, "leave my stuff alone". He will be a great consumer as he gets older.
We are "haves" in a land of "have-nots". It is both a blessing and a draw on the heartstrings.
But one gift lights up a kid's eyes, so it is easy to pass the joy about. The parents are happy with cash.
The Filipino way is a family way with the Church as backdrop. Food is the center of the occasion. It's a rich and joyful holiday, even for people without much money. I think there is not as much depression here as there is in the U.S.
People who don't have anything don't have high expectations.
Not so far to fall I suppose.
Time to mosey down to the fireworks store. Gotta restock for New Year's eve.