Punchline

My Christmas though 6 decades

By Ermin Garcia Jr. 

EVERY year, I cannot help but reflect on and reminisce good memories of past Christmases that make me smile, sad memories that make me pray. Memories with family because that’s what Christmas is about. 

How can I not remember my first experiences with Santa Claus when my early childhood revolved around his existence. Yes, I was completely sucked into it! 

I must have been about three years old and weeks before Christmas when our parents first told my four sisters and I that there was a Santa Claus that visits houses with children on Christmas Eve to bring gifts “to well-behaved children.” Of course, that was used as a veiled threat ever since. Our mother used that conveniently each time my sisters or I got scolded for something.  It worked for her… I guess it always works in the world of Santa Claus. 

So I still vividly remember that first engagement with Santa Claus. My sisters and I were chased to our bedroom right after dinner and we were promised Mama would wake us up soon as Santa arrives. We had to force our eyes closed because Papa and Mama said Santa would know if we were asleep or not and he wouldn’t give the gifts to children who didn’t sleep early.  Sleep we did. Then there was Mama pretending to be frantic, waking us up…”Hurry… Santa arrived…” Of course, there was no Santa. “You’re late… he just left!” Papa chuckled.  But Ok… we rushed to open the gifts and I kept wondering then if Santa was angry because we didn’t rush to see him. Those nights became a regular until I was 7… yes, four years of continued wonderment, how he could possibly give all the well-behaved children in the world their gifts in one night! Not so bright a kid, huh? 

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FANTASIES FROM GIFTS. My Santa fantasy ended when our parents gifted us with only religious items from the Catholic Trade store. We got prayer books and rosary. No toys. Sigh! But it was OK because I thought I should be a priest when I grew up. After all, my baptism ninongwas the parish priest, Fr. Soriano. On that particular Christmas, my father brought me to the kumbento for my “mano po ninong”. On seeing me, Fr. Soriano brought me to a room and told me to dip my hand in the collection box and whatever money my one hand could grab was mine. Wow! I was convinced I wanted to be a priest! 

From then on, it was just wish-wish time for me, looking out at store displays of toys.  I think I got my first toy wish when I was 10… I got a toy rifle that actually used small pellets for bullets. I set up my own firing range by a wall behind our grandfather’s house and that started my fantasy to become a soldier.   

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THE HALLMARK CARDS.  When I started my high school in St. Louis Boys High in Baguio City, my world became conscious of my need to be expressive in thoughts by spending time inside book stores reading and picking out Hallmark’s timely messages for all occasions, especially for Christmas. It was a joy for me to send and receive thoughtful Christmas cards from family and friends. Perhaps that was brought out by a sense of loneliness being away from home alone in Baguio since age 13.  So Christmas was marked with distinctive apt messages via Hallmark cards were the best gifts to and from the family. 

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SOMBER, STRONGER FAITH. On my fourth year in Baguio (1963), Christmas at home started becoming somber. Our sister Karina had just died on November, a month away from Christmas.  Then Papa was killed in 1966. It was tough for us, tougher for Mama who had just lost her youngest child then followed by her husband. 

My Christmas thereon through the 60s during college days were thoughts of past Christmas with Karina, Papa and Mama when she passed away in 2005. Today, I hold on to those solid good memories, stronger in faith in Christ. 

All told, I believe my sisters and I became closer emotionally after six decades of Christmas founded on pure parental and filial love. 

However, I’m afraid these are beginning to fade as I cross over to my seventh decade of Christmas joy in a completely different world. Hence this article because I must continue to remember.

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A NEW WORLD OF CHRISTMAS. Now that I have children and grandchildren of my own, I can only wish they, too, will always keep lovely memories of Christmas old with their parents and siblings that they can reminisce and share these with friends. 

I just wonder how it will be with my grandchildren because they only know the world of Christmas (and Santa Claus?) through chats and cutesy emoticons in the Facebook and Twitter world.  (But truth to tell, I’ve since gotten used to it myself, now fully sucked into it, too!). I guess, theirs will be memories of emoticons they shared with parents and siblings! 

In sum, I know that memories of past Christmas of my generation made people what they are today in many ways.  And I’m certain it will be the same for today’s generations, hopefully equally sentimental.

So what are your loving memories of your past Christmases? 

A Blessed and Merry Christmas to all! 

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