Christmas, carols, mythologies, dying girl’s Thank You, a mom’s song and advice


(Pasko na naman/O kay tulin ng araw / Paskong nagdaan / Tilaba kung kailanlang…)

A worker in a factory in the 1980s had a young daughter requiring dialysis. After donations we raised good for several months were used up, donor fatigue set in, and the family and daughter accepted calmly the inevitable. But at that time, some nights the girl would be crying in her sleep, saying she doesn’t want to die yet, and what father can bear to hear that and do nothing? He came back and asked again for assistance. With the help of some friends, doctors and institutions, and a plea on TV, we were able to have a kidney transplant for her, and everyone was happy. However the kidney turned out to not be a good fit, required unexpectedly expensive maintenance, and doctors expected she was fated to have a few months to live. Advised to just enjoy her time left with the family, as the money would run out and her body fail, she nevertheless wanted to continue with her studies in the state university as she was doing well. We lost touch and we thought she had passed away. But about Christmas time that year, I was surprised to receive a letter from her thanking profusely everyone who had helped her have the added time with her family. She had done her family proud and graduated with honors, and passed away a few months after.

She made me feel that Christmas was among other things, a time for gratitude and acceptance, and the letter and its memory became an amulet against anger at all the other ingratitudes and unfairness we think we experience later on in life…

Christmas has been many things to many people through time. The end of a year and the start of another has always had spiritual, economic, agricultural, even magical significance to humankind. There are those who say the story of Christianity actually are new versions of much older traditions. One powerful modern tradition is that of the Christmas carol, with special memories for the English and the Filipinos. We throw in a couple of Christmas stories for today…

Christmas celebrated in December, to Christians, is the celebration of the birth of a Saviour. Few however are told that there are similar, parallel stories in vastly different civilizations. We note these stories as part of historical study and in no way consider this as reducing the validity, truths, or messages of the Christian or other faiths.

The god Horus of Egypt was born of a virgin, honored by 3 kings, a teacher at 12, performed miracles, and baptized at 30, was betrayed, crucified, dead for 3 days, resurrected. Egypt was an empire even at 3000 BC. The god Mithra of Persia, an empire existing about 1200 BC, was also born of a virgin in December, having 12 disciples, he died for 3 days and resurrected. Krishna of India, was born with the sign of a star in the east, had apostles, miracles, resurrected after death. Dionysus of Greece 500 BC, also followed a similar pattern, performed miracles like turning water into wine.

These stories, are structurally similar, parallel in key aspects, in many civilizations and religions around the world, and they have similar or in some part perhaps even the same underlying truths. But Christmas is beyond histories and religions for us.

If Christmas is much more personal to us Filipino and our families than the snow and Santa Claus, it must also have much to do with the musicality of the Filipino, some incredible composers, and exemplified in a “Filipino”, different types of Christmas songs. We have the beloved “Christmas in our Hearts” for the community by Jose Mari Chan; a wistful intimate “Pasko na Sinta Ko” for lovers; two of the most popular Filipino Christmas carols “Ang Pasko ay Sumapit” for the fiestas and “Pasko Na Naman”, both put to lyric by the great Levi Celerio (who died in poverty,after also having helped create “Kahit Konting Pagtingin” and “Sa Ugoy ng Duyan”, and some 4000 songs!). For us Filipinos, music is part of Christmas as much as any important part of our lives.

Which brings us to the story “A Christmas Carol” —the most popular Christmas story in the world after the actual Biblical story of Jesus’ birth. It is a story of the miserliness and uncaring person of Ebenezer Scrooge who is shown by ghosts of Christmas past, present and future of how sad his life and those of his close associates will be because of his cold-hearted greed, and how meaningless his life and death will be. The story becomes one of redemption as it causes an awakening of Scrooge to be a more generous and caring person to the people around him. The novel probably made it a popular exercise to imagine the inscription on one’s own tombstone!

So why is the story called “Carol” instead of a “ghost story” or a “Christmas story”? It is said that Dickens wrote this story to make up for a shortfall in income, but in the course of writing it, was overwhelmed, wept, laughed and wept. He came to insist to the publisher to sell the book at a lower price so more can afford it, and Garry Gember theorizes it was a carol because … “The book was no longer part of a personal economic plan but was a gift from Dickens to the imaginations of families everywhere and a blessing to everyone… he expected the story to be repeated and shared and to bring people together just as the singing of Christmas carols spread joy and brought families together …” So we bless Dickens’ appreciation of music as a part of Christmas.

On this topic of music in Christmas, we cannot forget, although his popularity is less, but not his genius, Tim Burton, in his creation “Nightmare Before Christmas”, full of catchy tunes and lyrics (although songs about plots against Christmas and Santa cannot really be used as carols).

A Christmas memory…
Christmas was memorable again when decades later my mom who had Alzheimer’s, who had not been able to remember her children’s names for years, had recovered enough of her memory (we could swear it was through virgin coconut oil!) to remember even her grandchildren, and she passed away peacefully on Christmas Day. Up to the day before, the 24th, she was awake and was able to sing a few lines of one of her favorites for us— “Que Sera, Sera”, a wonderful song about advice from a parent to a child, from generation to generation. It became for our family one of the songs we remember at Christmas.

It maybe can be a reply to “what will happen to our country”, asked every new year. After all the opinions, arguments, efforts have been made… “Whatever will be, will be!”

Happy Holidays!

George Siy is a Wharton-educated industrialist, international trade practitioner and negotiator, serving as director of the Integrated Development Studies Institute (IDSI). He has advised the Philippines and various organizations in trade negotiations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Japan and the United States.

New Worlds by IDSI aims to present frameworks based on a balance of economic theory, historical realities, ground success in real business and communities, and attempt for common good, culture, and spirituality. We welcome logical feedback and possibly working together with compatible frameworks.

**Also published in:

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.