Giving to those in Need Could Be the Most Valuable Christmas Tradition this Year
Certain Filipino Christmas traditions like Simbang gabi (nine-day series of masses just before Christmas) or Misa de Gallo (Christmas Eve mass) might be put on hold this year as some cities undergo lockdowns or curfews. Catholic churches in some cities heavily hit with the coronavirus have either closed or limited entry to mass services temporarily.
Even our centerpiece Filipino tradition of the Noche Buena (Christmas Eve dinner) might be scaled back with some families electing not to have one or must follow the 10-persons or less gathering restrictions enforced in some counties.
Even while we might elect to suspend some of these traditions close to our hearts, the “reason for the season” — celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and God’s presence in our lives – remains. Some have even said that the hardships of job loss and uncertainty they’ve experienced this year have strengthened their relationship with God, as they’ve turned to God for spiritual guidance and fortitude. Heading into this Christmas others have also talked about feeling more gratitude for life which they’ve taken for granted. The sheer number of deaths caused by the pandemic brought about this awareness, people say. But it wasn’t just that alone – millions have always been dying from mostly noncommunicable diseases for centuries.
This pandemic posed a different threat to our mortality as a communicable, stealth killer that the world hasn’t had to face since the Spanish flu of 1918. The fact that every single individual is vulnerable has aroused a kind of collective fear that we’ve been trying to work through as a community, family unit, and individually.
At this time last year just before Christmas, certainly the over 260,000 in the US who have died from the coronavirus did not imagine that 2019 would have been their last Christmas. This virus puts the larger picture into focus, that really, all along there never has been any guarantees that the next Christmas any one of us would be present at the next Noche Buena.
Another Christmas will come for most of us to resume our unique Christmas traditions and customs. But for those who’ve lost family and close friends to COVID (or by any death), there will always be something missing each future Christmas.
Tradition of gift giving
With about half of the US living paycheck to paycheck, hundreds of thousands homeless or face eviction, 92 million uninsured or underinsured, millions without a job or face job insecurity, and many families going hungry – receiving some assistance this Christmas could be the most meaningful help they get at this moment.
The pandemic has revealed innumerous truths – one among them is the socioeconomic divide in our country. For those who are able to practice gift-giving this Christmas, it’s the perfect opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others suffering.
In Proverbs 19:17 on kindness to the poor, it says “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.”
In Proverbs 22:9, it says the generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.
In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says, “Whatever you do to the least of my brothers or sisters you do to me.”
As many of us in our community are Catholics, we could draw inspiration from God’s Greatest Commandment according to Jesus. In Matthew 22:36-40 we find a lawyer trying to trap Jesus into saying which is the greatest of the Ten Commandments. Jesus answers the lawyer by summing up the Ten Commandments in two by quoting the Old Testament. Matthew 22:36-40 “Master, which is the great Commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.” And the second part of the passage, Jesus says, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Of course, doing good deeds doesn’t necessarily have to be linked to any religion.
Some suggestions for gift-giving this year:
*Money. While money is unconventional as a Christmas gift, it could be placed in a box and wrapped up. This presentation softens the impact that you know the recipient really could use extra cash during this time and spare the recipient from feelings of awkwardness.
*Extra remittance to the Philippines. Sending money to family in the Philippines is already a Christmas tradition. If your family there is experiencing extra hardship due to the coronavirus and if you are able to afford it, consider giving more than your usual amount.
*Give a job referral. This wouldn’t be presented as a Christmas gift. But if you know someone who is unemployed and know someone in need of filling a job vacancy, you might consider introducing the two. The news of a potential job could uplift any unemployed worker’s spirit during the holiday.
*Buying a bag of groceries and household essentials. This will not only come in handy for people you know who are strapped for cash, but seniors unable to leave their homes for health reasons or out of fear of contracting the virus could find this the best gift to receive.
*Voucher to watch over your younger sibling. With some schools canceling classroom instruction, this has caused a bind for some working parents. If you are an older family member, you could give vouchers (one per hour to watch over your younger sibling) to your parents to use whenever they have pressing matters to deal with at work.
Be creative. Be generous. Be safe. May you all have a Merry Christmas and “Maligayang Pasko.”