As a country with a Catholic majority, Christmas is an important part of the calendar. It’s a time for family reunions, renewal of friendships and fellowship and of thanksgiving.
The Seminarians of the IVE carry on apostolates on Saturdays in various locations. As Christmas approaches, we take the opportunity to have a celebration with all the children and people of our apostolates. The following chronicles the Christmas celebration at the Papayahan apostolate, which encompasses the barangay surrounding the Seminary. Similar celebrations took place in the other apostolates as served by us as well.Typically, the food preparation is a communal affair and involves all strata of the community, from the nanays and lolas who do the cutting and preparation to the menfolk who, as is traditional in the Philippines, are the ones who do the actual cooking.
In this season of plenty, we tend to forget that even in these modern times, many people are underprivileged and many live in poverty amidst the affluence of their neighbours. Although the IVE Seminary in the Philippines is located in a rural area, away from the city of Lipa, and our neighbours are hardly accounted wealthy, still amongst the general poverty, there are families who stand out. As part of our Christmas celebration, we remember these families by visiting them with gifts of clothes, toiletries and other hygiene products which we were donated by benefactors.
After the house visitations, carried out while the food was being prepared, the people gathered for the event to begin. After words of welcome and an opening prayer, we take the opportunity of the gathered crowd to present some catechism on the real meaning of Christmas. In many societies, Christmas has become a very commercialized holiday where shopping and gifts come so much to the fore that the real meaning of Christmas is often obscured and the reason for the season is concealed under layers of merchandizing and advertising and both Christ and the Mass are often completely forgotten. The short catechism reiterated again the cause of all our joy and our celebration, the birth of Jesus Christ Our Lord and Saviour, the gift of the Father.
After the catechism, comes the centerpiece of the Christmas party, the Nativity Play. The familiarity of the story sometimes serves to dilute the wondrous amazement and sheer joy that the very first Christmas must have held for the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and the Shepherds and Magi who were privy to the glorious apparition of the hosts of Heaven announcing the birth of the long promised and eagerly awaited Saviour of the world. In order never to let people forget the awe-inspiring history where the hopes and fears of all the years was fulfilled in one little child lying in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes, centerpiece of all our Christmas celebrations is always the Nativity play.
Although a little bit of patience and effort was needed to gather and train a bunch of kids and keep them in one place long enough to learn their lines and literally get their act together, the play and the re-creation of the joy of that first Christmas was well worth it. We even managed to get a newborn, just a month old, to fill in for the Child Jesus. True to character, he slept peacefully throughout the entire play.
This was followed by several rounds of games for children of all ages. A particular favourite was pok-pok palayok, a local incarnation of breaking piñata. This was one game where old nanays, youth and children were all able to participate in the fun. The breaking of the palayok (clay pot) which served as the piñata released a showed of candy and flour which the kids rushed for.
After the games, came the food which was earlier prepared and packed for convenience. Due to the generous contributions by various benefactors, we were able to serve spaghetti, fried chicken, sausage and spring rolls. The pouring rain did not dampen the spirits of the people who enjoyed the hearty meal, prepared with much love and effort by their elders and the brothers and sisters of the Apostolate.
The celebration closed with the presentation of Christmas gifts, generously contributed by benefactors. We had pre-packed gift bags with school supplies, candy and other goodies as well as clothes, toys and other supplies which the kids were allowed to choose.
The day ended with a prayer of thanksgiving to God, for the gift of His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ and a hymn to Our Lady, through whose fiat the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.