The Simple Joy of Christmas

by Fernando Perfas

A house adorned with Christmas lights. | Photo KimonBerlin/flicker.com

The trees in my yard are now bare save the evergreens. These, too, will soon be blanketed with snow. The leaves on the ground, all raked up in piles by the roadside curb, are waiting to be collected. Soon Christmas lights will adorn the houses in my street. Christmas trees will spring up in living rooms with a warmly familiar holiday glow, and as Christmas approaches, gifts will file up under the trees. Shopping for gifts will be everyone’s preoccupation for the next two weeks. The Christmas spirit builds up as it draws closer, and for many with great anticipation and joy; for others with religious fervor, and some with mounting inner turmoil.

“While for many Christmas is a time for happy family reunions, for renewing old bonds, for reminiscing the past with fondness, and for looking forward to the promises of days ahead, it is for some a time that brings sad memories of families long gone, of bad times more than good, of broken hopes and promises, or relationships forever lost. That’s how Christmas looks in the year of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

During the Christmas holiday, we look forward to seeing family members come home with presents and good tidings. It brings back memories of growing up in the Philippines and attending the ten-day daily early morning mass — or Simbang Gabi — before Christmas. The Noche Buena, usually a feast, that follows the Christmas Eve Mass caps the night of celebration. This Christmas, many a home will mourn a loss, a Christmas of inconsolable grief in the dinner table with an empty chair. Countless families will dine on meager Christmas meals doled out by the local charity.

While many of us are caught up with plans to celebrate the most festive Christian holiday, there are those amidst us caught in a far different world. It is a grim world when the holiday brings back unhappy memories. It is a seeming paradox that for some Christmas is a time of great emotional struggle. It is painfully depressing for them. While for many Christmas is a time for happy family reunions, for renewing old bonds, for reminiscing the past with fondness, and for looking forward to the promises of days ahead. It is for some a time that brings sad memories of families long gone, of bad times more than good, of broken hopes and promises, or relationships forever lost. That’s how Christmas looks in the year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The first Christmas, as a matter of fact, paints a picture of loneliness as Jesus and His parents were in exile, travelling in a foreign country to find a haven. Their plight was no different from what is going on now with families in several parts of the world. Individuals, societies, and nations are still looking for lasting peace.”

Christmas has many symbolisms, however, the most important is the utter simplicity of the first one. It occurs in a manger, in someone’s barn out in nowhere, with the newborn Christ attended by his parents, some shepherds and their animals, and the three magi bearing gifts from distant lands. There was not the usual hoopla and extravagance that we now usually associate Christmas today of the global market.

The first Christmas, as a matter of fact, paints a picture of loneliness as Jesus and His parents were in exile, travelling in a foreign country to find a haven. Their plight was no different from what is going on now with families in several parts of the world. Individuals, societies, and nations are still looking for lasting peace. In this respect, nothing has changed much in the world in the last two millennia. Ironically, there is something about that first Christmas that continues to evoke peace, joy, and goodwill amidst the tumult of the time.

As we celebrate Christmas in our own way, let’s remember the message of that first Christmas. For me, it is the simple joy of finding peace in everyman’s heart. Peace to all!!!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr. Fernando B. Perfas is an addiction specialist who has written several books and articles on the subject. He currently provides training and consulting services to various government and non-government drug treatment agencies regarding drug treatment and prevention approaches. He can be reached at fbperfas@gmail.com.

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