For those who have the means, one cause of stress during the Christmas season is what gifts to give to one’s loved ones? This is especially so if they seem to have all that they need and are not wanting for anything else. We do not want to give gifts that will only end up in the cupboards or recycled as gifts to others.

            Godparents get perplexed when having to think of the appropriate gifts to their godchildren who do expect something from them during the Christmas season. It is easy enough when they were kids, as there is a variety of toys to choose from. And kids love any toy that they receive especially the ones popular at the moment.  But when they reach adolescent or early adulthood, one wonders what gift they would appreciate. To be safe, godparents resort to just giving gift cards of superstores or outright cash.

            OFW parents are even more pressured if they are not at home for Christmas. To compensate for their absence during this season, they spoil their kids and it could turn out to be expensive as kids demand gadgets that could cost a fraction of their salaries. But it is not just their children expecting gifts but the whole clan which explains the phenomenon of those big Balikbayan boxes that flood our airports at this time of year.

            And additional source of anxiety these days is the impact of inflation and the ensuing  high prices of commodities on one hand, while salaries have no correspondingly increased. Some companies even could no yet afford to give a 13th month bonus. Considering the high costs of Christmas with demands for a delicious noche buenas and other expenses, there is hardly left to buy gifts.

            On the other hand, there is also an interesting development in terms of undermining the crash commercialism that has characterized the Christmas holiday season. To make sure that they are not held captive by the pressure to go to the malls and shop till they drop, they refuse to even buy anything. Instead the more altruistic ones would rather distribute goods to the needy or give their money to charitable institutions or cause-oriented groups.  We can only hope that this kind of movement would expand and more people are involved in spreading Christmas cheer among our less fortunate sisters and brothers.

            If there is someone out there who wonders how best to respond to the question – what gifts to give to loved ones? –  let me offer this reflection. At a most recent time when I thought I was already destined to depart from this earth, I asked myself what was it that I would miss most? Or what would I have no difficulty letting go?  I realized I could let go of:

–         Ice cream, halo-halo and all those wonderful pastries in bakeshops

–         A really delicious meal in a fancy Vietnamese restaurant

–         Bagel, croissant, pretzel and those freshly-baked bread

–         A swim in the warm waters around the islets of El Nido, Palawan or in a lagoon underneath a waterfalls

–         A fabulous sunrise or a gorgeous sunset with the wind caressing the coconut trees

–         A climb up the mountain and then viewing a sea of clouds

–         Travels to Baguio and Bali, Paris, New York or Rio de Janiero

–         Films of Kurosawa and Trauffaut, concertos of Mozart and Bach

–         The best of Filipiniana films, music, art and literature

–         Songs of Simon and Garfunkel, the Beatles and Frank Sinatra

–         Gardening, reading Booker prize-winning novels, writing fiction

–         And a few more favorite things to do

Photo by Sandino Madelo, Christmas 2021

It goes without saying that I would not let go of my faith in the Triune God and of God’s plan of salvation that continues to unfold. To have been gifted with this faith has led many to a meaningful life allowing me a glimpse of what is God’s promise for humanity. It has also brought me to many communities where I could inter-act with peoples of great charm and generosity. It allowed me to experience moments of peace and great joy. And it brought into my life many co-believers to be able to constitute communities of mutual support, deep affection and compassion for each other.

Then I realized there was one thing I would not let go for I would miss this very much. And it is this: the love and affection of family, confreres and the closest friends especially those whose friendships have lasted a lifetime. Who I am today and what I have accomplished in my life may be due to their support, encouragement and prayers.  The wonderful moments I have enjoyed through my life – especially at certain special occasions – were in their company. There was utter happiness that could only arise in their presence.  If there are memories to keep in my heart, their faces would appear.

Indeed, the gifts of kinship, confrereship and friendship are the most precious gifts for me. And these are gifts given from Christmas season to Christmas season as well as throughout the years. These need not be wrapped in fancy paper and silk ribbons for these are offered from the heart. Every Christmas, I have always felt blessed because I knew I continue to receive these precious gifts. If I have these gifts, really what else do I need?

So, dear reader, do not worry what gift to give your loved ones.  By embracing them in  your heart, wishing and praying for their well-being, assisting them in their times of need and loving them in a manner that makes them feel deeply appreciative – you would have given the most precious of gifts!

And it is a gift that goes beyond Christmas!

A blessed Christmas to one and all!


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