Christmas is a time when we are surrounded by plenty of reminders. The lights on the houses, the big red bows in department store windows, and the bright reds and greens all over the restaurants make it very difficult to forget that it is the holiday season. This year, however, the reminders that I see are not just telling me that it is Christmas; they are telling me that I am home.
As my mom pulls out all of our Christmas decorations, I squeal with delight as the memories come flooding back. We assemble our plastic Christmas tree, which is as old as I am! I hang an ornament that I stitched when I was twelve. Setting up the nativity scene was always one of my favorite tasks, and every year it was saved for me. This year is no different.
There are even more reminders when I walk outside my front door and into the colorful city of Cebu. "Jingle Bells" and other holiday favorites are playing to a disco beat in all the department stores.
Carolers are frequent visitors outside our gate. While all of these traditional elements of the holiday season are cozy and wonderful, they do not usher me into the Christmas spirit the way my beautiful island does. The Christmas I know isn"tmt filled with cold weather, sweaters, apple pie (made with real apples) and eggnog. December 8 marks the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. This season, although it brings the appearance of joy and happiness, exhibits the true spiritual state of this country. Christmas stars made of colorful paper, cellophane, and light bulbs are hanging everywhere. Christmas in this country reminds me that there is a deeper meaning behind our festivities and celebrations. Despite the suppressive, tropical heat, it"tms still beginning to look a lot like Christmas -- the Christmas I know. It is a time to celebrate the moment in which an infinite God chose to come into a finite world to bring hope and light to every tribe, tongue and nation. Nativity scenes grace almost every home emphasizing Mary over Jesus. Christmas Eve, or Noche Buena, as it is called here, is a time for families to gather together. Delicacies enhance the festive mood and fire crackers start at ten o"tmclock increasing in intensity as the midnight hour approaches. I am reminded of the poverty that is so prevalent and obtrusive throughout this world. As we drive through the crowded streets and stop at every traffic light, little boys race to our car singing and playing their innovative instruments (bottle caps loosely nailed to a stick) in hopes of picking up some holiday change. Many Filipinos do not have the hope of Christ in their lives.