Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Essay: Post-Christmas Reflections

Every Wednesday, I have an essay on any topic that catches my fancy!

I find it ironic that after months coming up with essays on a weekly basis, I've run out of ideas for a topic. Well, that's not quite true--I have lots of essays I want to write about but I'm either saving them up for a different segment or they're commissioned for other publications. And all this time, I wanted to avoid talking about the elephant in the room--namely Christmas and the recently concluded holiday.

It's not that I don't like Christmas--I do. In fact, it's the perfect excuse for me to greet people I wouldn't otherwise have greeted and give my friend gifts (because some people decline gifts unless there's a special occasion). Rather, I find the topic of Christmas to be too cliche, too expected, too predictable. But at the end of the day, one cannot avoid writing about it, whether you're for it or against it. It's simply an influential part of our culture which one can't ignore simply because we want to. At the very least, it's a day away from the office or a day one returns to your family. I have friends who've lived separately from the parents and siblings only to return these past few days as if two days in a year makes up for the other three hundred days they're away (and sometimes it does).

For me, gift-giving has been an integral part of the holidays mainly because I am genetically inclined to express my love and enthusiasm through gifts: I'm the type that believes the one who receives the most joy isn't the recipient but the giver. Last week, I was racking my brains for the perfect gift for friends--not necessarily the present that they want but rather something they never realize they wanted yet makes perfect sense when they receive it. Can't say I always succeeded in that endeavor but when all else fails, I can always give them something that's on their wish-list.

The Chinese, on the other hand, have a more practical, if sometimes counter-productive, attitude towards gift-giving. It's been a tradition to give money--yes, actual cash--as presents. The only qualification is that you put them inside red envelopes which signify good luck and prosperity. Forget about gift certificates which is really money in disguise, you give cash so that the recipient can buy themselves the gifts that they really, really want. And best of all, there's no guilt attached to the fact that you're giving actual money. I mentioned that it's sometimes counter productive mainly because in the context of the family, everyone else is asking how much the other person gave. For example, my aunt might give me P120 for Christmas. My mother would then ask me how much my aunt gave and she'd match that amount when she's giving money to my aunt's child. You can think of it as the Law of Conservation at work--except it applies to finances. The money we give out literally comes back to us--or at least we keep it in the family.

As for me, I spent most of Christmas, well, writing. There's five days to go before the end of the year and you'd think it should be a time to relax. Yet for me, that's five more days of reading books, writing reviews, finishing essays, and hopefully start a few short stories. Christmas typically warns me that the year is over yet these past few days, I know it isn't. I also ponder on the morbid possibility that I might not live long enough to witness 2008 and try to get as much things done as possible. The latter half of 2007 has been a big turning point for me but that doesn't mean I should stop there and simply be content with that. That's not to say I'm not taking the time to breathe and appreciate what I've accomplished so far but there's also a feeling that there's more I can still write about, there's still more that can be achieved.

And in case you haven't heard it from me, happy holidays!

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