Christmas in New York City | Photo José Elias DLC via Creative Commons 2.0
The original European settlers/immigrants in this land, later known as the United States of America, came to escape persecution. They convinced the early framers of the federal constitution that they should be left free to decide their relationship with the Divine Providence. And so, the framers made sure the government of the United States of America they were establishing would “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise hereof” (First Amendment).
Thus, in this land of the free, we, the people, believe and practice different religions, or not believe at all, without undue interference from the government. We observe other religious holidays in different ways, even on the same or overlapping dates—the secular Thanksgiving Day ushers in the Happy Holidays in December. Two of the world’s oldest great religions – Judaism and Christianity- observe Happy Holidays in December.
The Christians celebrate their Happy Holidays beginning December 15, through Christmas Day on December 25, until Feast of the Three Kings on the first Sunday of January. The Jews begin the Hannukah (also spelled Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Lights), an eight-day celebration in 2020, started on the evening of December 10 and ended the evening of December 18. Kwanzaa, a non-religious seven-day celebration but with religious undertones by African Americans, commences on December 26 and ends on January 1. The Orthodox Christians celebrate their Christmas Day sometime in January because they follow the old Julian calendar.
Because I, and many others, strongly believe in religious freedom, I greet you Merry Christmas by choice, not to offend who does not believe in it, but because it is what I mean – a Merry Christmas to all Christians non-Christians alike. With this greeting is the sincere desire to share and spread happiness to all regardless of religious persuasions.
I have expressed below the wishes of specific sectors of our community in simple verses.
Wishes for Christmas
A six-month-old baby I was on the day
I crossed the ocean Christmases past
Reached this North American country
We found a home sweet home at last.
Speaking English only and loyal to none
But the proud and mighty Stars and Stripes
Because I am by heart a young American
Feeling protected by the Bill of Rights.
I finished elementary then high school
With honors at the top of my class
Dreaming of higher educations, my forebears
Aimed for but denied due to their caste.
Now I found college just a dream
Because of my legal status, they say I lack.
What I wished for Christmas was an Act
That could lead me on my dream track.
I am the kind of bride you and them.
Derisively called a mail-order bride.
Hard to believe I came for the love of him
Though, with hopes of good fortune beside.
See me now in this well-appointed house,
But I am living like a bird in a silvery cage.
Living but fulfilling only the dreams
And caring for the man, I did pledge
To love for all time and above all else.
Because of the promises to me he made,
See me now in this distant rustic place,
Away from the family, I long for always.
Oh, how much more will them I miss?
At this time of blissful blessed holidays,
What I wish for Christmas is to be
Free as the birds of those green trees.
I am a Filipino like everyone born
Of ancestors from the islands in the seas.
Bounded on one side by the Pacific Ocean
And called Pearl of the Orient Seas.
My skin is tan all seasons and every day.
I speak the English language the way
They say it is the way the Americans say.
I savor fast foods, football I love to play,
And I drive autos made in Detroit City.
I celebrate July 4 as the only holiday
As Americans call Independence Day.
I am one like everyone born in the USA
With ancestral roots from lands far away
What I wish for Christmas is a place for me,
It is a place in American mainstream society.
I am a child, brother, sister, husband, or wife.
O a dear one working in New York City
Extended living separate and missing the life
We should have a closely-knit family.
Many years have gone and spent in a way
Not the way we dreamed it should be.
A celebration is not complete at media noche
Happiness will not be full-on Christmas Day.
I will be here waiting till that day.
After seasons and times pass my way.
When you will be here in New York City
Together with me every year and every day
And ours will be a life we dreamed it to be.
The life we dreamed of will come, oh dear.
I know it will; it will come sooner or later.
What I wish for Christmas is it comes sooner.
Sooner than later, later, later.
I belong and counted as among the silent,
The quiet working Fil-American majority.
Through the years, I watched patiently
Apathetic and silent thought with dismay
Of how our community leaders display
Conduct uncivil and lacking in courtesy.
Through the years I have not done any
The same practices lead to disharmony.
No changes are in the horizons that I see
They did nothing to cure this social malady.
And I know I am to blame as least partly
For all those acts that lead to our disunity
But I prefer to be true to a silent majority
For I know what happens to who dare say.
Yet what I wish for Christmas today
Is for others to come and lead the way.
I am a community leader, so they say
My dreams are noble, and my hopes are pretty
For these organizations, I joined lately.
Elected and chosen by those who like me
Believe in something better than today.
And hoping to make changes in such a way
The Filipino will be seen in a more excellent way
By other ethnics in this our American society
Expecting more respect from the community
And all support for tomorrows and today
Dreaming to see that fine and glorious day
When Fil-Ams proud of their ancestry
At all times, places, and in any and every way,
Become shapers of government policy.
What I wish for Christmas now is for many
To be silent no more and cast off the apathy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Manuel B. Quintal, ESQ., practices law in New York since 1989. He is active in the community as a member, an officer or a legal adviser of various professional, business, and not-for-profit organizations. He was a columnist of Newstar Philippines, an English language weekly newspaper published in New York, from 2006-2009. He was Executive Editor of International Tribune, an English language weekly newspaper for the Asian community, based in New York, from 2010 to 2012. He is admitted to practice law in the Philippines and New York State. He has graduate degrees in Political Science and an LL.M. major in International Law.