POSTSCRIPT / December 19, 2021 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Wish for Christmas sans Covid, politics

WE have not heard of anybody seriously challenging the claim that the Philippines has the longest Christmas season on the planet.

Christmas on these 7,100-plus islands (keep count before the neighborhood bully grabs some more of them) makes a soft entrance in the first few days of the “ber” months, starting in September, when radio stations begin airing the carols to set a Christmassy mood.

In my boyhood, we listened in the morning to Rafael Yabut of Candaba on station dzRH. If we heard it from our cabalen Paeng himself, it must be true. So when he started playing the carols, we knew Merry Christmas was officially in the air.

More properly, Simbang Gabi or the novena of dawn masses from Dec. 16 to Christmas Eve should be the spiritual segue to the joyous season celebrating the birth of the Redeemer, unreeling happy days that we wish would never end.

Spirits build up, reaching a crescendo on Christmas Day, then linger beyond the Jan. 6 feast of the Three Kings who bore gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Santo Niño to a few more days into the devotional frenzy of the Jan. 9 Black Nazarene day-long procession ending at the Quiapo shrine.

That is the extended Christmas season we have known from way back regardless of what the Church calendar says. In my case, I was then too innocent to smell anything foul or see the hand of merchants cranking up the gift-giving madness.

The prolonged Christmas season has become a year-round caroling spree by politica, a voracious subclass of mammalia, that habitually extracts a percentage of the cost of government projects and purchases in a never-ending season of unalloyed plunder.

How convenient for politicos to convert a season of grace into one of grease. This is an instance when “Christmas” may be abbreviated in news heads with the capital X (as in “X’mas”) to highlight the X-rated bare-faced corruption.

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YULETIDE is sometimes used in place of Christmas, a combination of Yule, from the pagan winter festival Jol, and tide, an annual festival. Tide is also related to the Old English for “time” while “tiding” comes from an Old English word meaning “to happen by fate.” So “good tidings” are wishes for good fortune.

A sample of timely “glad tidings” is the linking up of, so far, Vice President Leni Robredo and Sen. Manny Pacquiao, competing presidential aspirants, for a common effort to help victims of typhoon “Odette” which walloped the Visayas late this week.

As of yesterday, the typhoon was reported to have killed at least 20 persons and destroyed crops and property worth billions of pesos.

It is amazing, although not completely ruled out as a possibility, that something like this calamity could bring together rival presidential aspirants even as they race for dominance in the May 2022 national elections.

We hope the other presidential aspirants, plus the administration, could combine resources and muscle power to cooperate in the relief/rehab work. President Duterte himself confesses that the government is low on funds, which underscores the need for joint efforts.

We were glad to see President Duterte in his last televised report calm and collected as he received updates from the task force managing the campaign against the pandemic amid the typhoon. We like it that he does not suddenly lose his temper or utter cuss words in public. Such heat does not produce light.

We have also noted that Duterte repeated his pledge to keep the government fair and nonpartisan in the 2022 elections, that he would do his best to ensure that the polls will be free, peaceful, and honest moving toward the turnover to the incoming president.

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REVIEWING past issues of the Philippine Star, we saw the “Roses and Thorns” column of National Artist for Literature Alejandro R. Roces dated Jan. 3, 2004, saying that the Christmas season ends with the feast of the Epiphany (Three Kings).

Roces, who served from 1962 to 1965 as education secretary under then-President Diosdado Macapagal, wrote in the STAR:

“Today is the Epiphany, more popularly known as the Feast of the Three Kings. Traditionally, it was celebrated on Jan, 6. Then on May 9, 1969, Pope Paul VI revised the liturgical calendar and one of the changes was that the Epiphany became a movable feast commemorated on the first Sunday of January that does not fall during the New Year.

“So the concept of 12 days of Christmas is over. Christmastide can be from 9 to 14 days if the Epiphany falls on Jan. 8, the second Sunday of January. The eve of the Feast of the Epiphany was known as the Twelfth Night, which was celebrated with a child being assigned to play king during the Bean-King festival, a former pagan festival derived from the Saturnalia of ancient Roman times.

“In the old Julian calendar that our present Gregorian calendar replaced, the Twelfth Day was Christmas Day.

“To this day, we cannot comprehend why Pope Paul VI decided to make the Epiphany a movable feast. Now it is commemorated any day from January 1st to the 8th. People no longer remember but prior to the coming of the Americans, aguinaldos or Christmas gifts were given or exchanged not on Dec. 25, but on the Epiphany, more popularly known as the Feast of the Three Kings.

“This was more in keeping with the Bible because it commemorated the gifts that the Child Jesus got from the Magi or Wise Men from the East. The Bible does not mention how many wise men there were. But it was assumed that they were three because there were three gifts.

“They probably paid their homage to the Infant Jesus 40 days after his birth, which was the Purification. Later, they were said to be kings and were even provided with names – Gaspar, Melchor, and Balthazar.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 19, 2021)

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