Video editor Yan and her entire family intends to head to bed early tonight, unlike in her youth when they would stay up until midnight to welcome Christmas over Noche Buena. The spirit of the season has been on the decline since her teen years, and the joy it once brought is gone.
“At some point siguro early childhood merong [Christmas spirit], pero nung mga teenage years I was like yung edgy emo teenager na sobrang meh towards Christmas because you see how much time has changed people, especially in your family,” Yan said. “It becomes a chore kasi it's a facade instead of actually experiencing it as a celebration.”
“I think when you get older, you become more aware. Like there are reasons why people still celebrate Christmas na sobrang…superficial. Like let’s celebrate Christmas to cover up family problems. I guess it's the innocence that faded din,” Yan said.
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Adulthood catching up
As kids become adults, they slowly assume the responsibilities of keeping Christmas traditions alive. That's when the joy starts to diminish, said Prince Aldama, a sociologist from U.P. Los Baños.
“When you do your job, when you accept your responsibilities, ang gumagana dyan is your reason. Time management, how to deal with people properly,” he added.
That's when celebrating Christmas feels like a chore, like paying utility bills, Aldama said. There are also things like being agreeable with in-laws and learning how to respond to “tumaba ka” comments.
While Christmas is all about generosity and fostering good relationships as the year comes to a close, it’s difficult for such values to coexist with a consumerist system, especially since it takes cash to survive all year round and celebrate the holidays.
“Giving, being understanding, being compassionate with other people… that is not in line with the nature of our work, with the nature of modern society. Because modern society is really calculated, rational,” Aldama said.
“That’s the product of the capitalist, consumerist na lipunan. We are conditioned to become materialistic talaga. Materyal yung basehan ng mga bagay-bagay,” he said.
It takes more than decorations
There's pressure to show others how you're celebrating Christmas may it be gifts, year-end vacations or a Noche Buena spread, Aldama said.
“Symbolic kasi ang Pasko sa atin, and by symbolic, we use different objects to represent what Christmas really is,” he said.
But as kids grow up, the responsibility of providing such joys and maintaining traditions falls on the shoulders of adults searching for magic from their youth.
“Minsan napapaisip ako sobrang lonely ko at sad ko, pero di naman ako ganito nung bata ako,” Lian, a call center agent, said.
Now in her mid-20s, Lian is faced with a dilemma: “May sweldo naman ako para bilhin lahat, mag-celebrate, pero parang responsibilidad na lang kasi siya. Yung family ko may expectation na mag-pprovide at may pamigay ako, and masaya naman ako magbigay, pero parang pagod na pagod na ako, kahit maliwanag yung bahay at kumpleto kami.”
Once the child becomes an adult, Christmas spirit—and its accompanying happiness and comfort—grows elusive. Questions like “Pwede ba mag-leave? May budget ba? Yung mga pamilya bang magka-away, magbabati for one night? Paano kung magka-iba kami ng iboboto sa eleksyon, tapos mag-aaway lang kami imbes na kumain?” Lian said.
“It feels wrong to be sad, especially when I have a house and a family. People lost so much to the pandemic. Parang ano bang karapatan kong hindi maging masaya?” Jade, a fresh grad, said.
Jade said she owes it to seasonal depression and “that’s just the reality, things are simple when you’re a kid. But as an adult, it’s so much more complicated. You can have everything, but you can still feel very empty inside.”
Reclaiming Christmas spirit
While traditions uphold Christmas, there’s room for change to fit the developments in your life, Aldama said. “We define, redefine, and reshape how we celebrate Christmas every year".
“I’m trying to reclaim that by having my own traditions during the holidays. I mean sure things change but you can change traditions naman din to fit current circumstances with people,” Yan said. While Paskong Pinoy is known for its communal celebrations, Yan said she takes this time to look inward and nurture her hobbies.
“Walang tatalo sa pag-uusap, for me. Yung pwede kang maging honest and thankful sa family mo, sa friends mo. Ang dali kasing mameke na lang, that you’re happy as long as may food and gifts, pero I think it’s important na maka-usap mo yung mga mahal mo sa buhay, and find ways to feel less alone,” Lian said.
“Syempre mahirap kasi kung problema yung usapan, ang killjoy pag Pasko. Pero sana yung mga tao, may mga maka-usap kayo at this time. For me kasi, important yung connection lalo na since it’s been a tough year and ang hirap magkita-kita,” she added.
“I know I’m never gonna get my childhood happiness during Christmas back,” Jade said. “But I am hopeful that I can rework traditions to feel less sad. And that if I am sad, I don’t need to feel pressured to keep up with the happiness of others during this time. Like, it’s different for everyone, and I’m just taking things as they go.”