C’mon, who doesn’t enjoy Christmas in the Philippines? As soon as we rip off August from our calendars and commence the so-called -ber months, we go crazy unearthing our Christmas decorations that were hurriedly packed away barely nine months prior, rummaging through mall sales for affordable gifts, planning family reunions and office parties, and stockpiling on fruit salad ingredients. Our bus terminals, seaports, and airports swarm with humanity on the days before Christmas. EDSA traffic is described as “carmaggedon” by media, but who cares?
We all should, actually. Because we are not just a consumerism driven citizenry, we are also a country of Catholic Christians. History has conferred on us the honor and charge of being the biggest predominantly Catholic nation in Asia.
And as Catholics, we live by the liturgical calendar. If the regular calendar standardizes the way we measure time, the fiscal calendar tells us when to pay our taxes, and the academic calendar dictates our children’s learning routines, the liturgical calendar guides us through the cycles of living our faith until hopefully, one day, we will live it in Heaven.
Structured to commemorate the key events of our salvation history, the liturgical calendar highlights the incarnation and coming to earth of Jesus who is God the Son, and His passion, death and resurrection. Easter, which celebrates Jesus’ resurrection, is the most important feast in the liturgical calendar. The calendar divides the liturgical year into seasons, beginning with Advent. It continues on to the Christmas Season, the short Ordinary Time after the Baptism of our Lord, Lent, the Easter Season, and finally, the long Ordinary Time after Pentecost.
The beauty of the liturgical year is that it allows us to relive Jesus’ life here on earth and that of the Church in a sequential, cyclical, and continuous manner. With each new cycle, we rediscover the truths of our faith, we relive the joys, sufferings, and triumphs of Jesus and His followers, and we are able to share again and again the glory of His resurrection. Along the way, we are accompanied by Mary, our Blessed Mother, whose yes to God’s will is key to our redemption, and the canonized saints, whose lives would do us well to emulate.
But what have we done? It’s almost as if we have redefined the liturgical calendar with only two seasons – Christmas and Not Christmas. Christmas starts in September and ends on New Year’s Day. Not Christmas is the time outside Christmas. During Christmas, we dress up our trees long before we light candles for our dead, mindlessly toss food items to our grocery cart just because, madly swipe plastic all over the malls, and shamelessly gormandize in extravagant parties. During Not Christmas, well among others, we pay our bills.
This is not to say that the Pinoy Christmas practices of Simbang Gabi, being with family, visiting orphanages and homes for the elderly, and children caroling have no value because they do. They enrich our faith, culture, and sense of family and community. We create memories that are strong and vivid enough to tide us through tough episodes the following year.
But. By forcing an early start to the Christmas Season, we skip a long part of Ordinary Time and Advent. With Ordinary Time (September, October, November), we are given the rich opportunity to grow by living the lessons of Lent and Easter, to re-live and understand the important events in Church history so we can be more mature Christians, and to commune with the saints who were pilgrims like us in the hope that someday, we will be amongst them. The color of Ordinary Time is green. It is the color of hope and growth. In temperate countries, green is associated with spring, the season of birth and growth after winter when most plants are dead and animals hibernate. In tropical countries, like the Philippines, growth is a constant.
With Advent (early to mid-December), we relive the hope and anxiety of the chosen people as they waited for the birth of the Savior. To prepare for His coming, we repent, clean up our lives, pray, and frequent the sacraments. The color of Advent is violet. It is the color of humility and repentance.
Let us consider the blessings that come from truly living the liturgical year, letting the seasons take their course the way we do the climatic seasons. To do otherwise would be to shortchange ourselves and our God.
This is not a call to be morose and forlorn while waiting for Christmas. On the contrary, hope is intrinsic in waiting, and with hope comes joy and peace. This is a call to live Ordinary Time and Advent properly and meaningfully, so that in due time, Christmas can be truly merry.
“Simple Capiz Parol” (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Simple_capiz_parol.jpg),
© Eugene Alvin Villar, 2007 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Seav), licensed under the Creative Commons.
Catholic Culture Staff, 2019. “Ordinary Time Workshop”, Catholic Culture. Accessed from https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=12022, September 2019.
St. Columbans Mission Society, undated. “Litugical Colors and Their Meanings”. Accessed from https://www.columban.org.au/assets/files/cmi/2013/
columban%20liturgical%20colours%20and%20their%20meanings%20descriptions.pdf, September 2019.
Tufano, V.M., 2019. “Why Do Priests Wear Green in Ordinary Time?”, US Catholic: Faith in Real Life. Accessed from https://www.uscatholic.org/articles/201701/why-do-priests-wear-green-ordinary-time-30900, September 2019.