MERRY Christmas! The four Sundays of advent passed almost unnoticed. Today, as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, after all the experiences we had, especially those which left us grieving for a lost son, lost families, lost homes, derailed trains, lost opportunities, gangster victims, pitiable exodus to unwilling nations — all these — somehow lost in the shadows by the light of His grace. We are calmed by the visit of His Holiness, Pope Francis. We take pride in having hosted world leaders for the APEC summit despite what a great many endured. Yeah, this is Christmas at last!
I shall not add my voice to join the clarion call for peace be to all men. This is a given to us all to contribute to PEACE. Silently, let us then kneel in prayer that God in His infinite goodness keeps all of us safe and that we continue to carry on with passion our respective missions.
This year’s New York Times of November 11 featured vividly the plight of millions of migrants to the European continent. The story stressed the appeal of four country prime ministers to their people to willingly shed hostility, racism and xenophobia — accept a benevolent quota of 120,000 each for Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary —if only to remember their own recent past, while the millions of other migrants who have dared the deadly risks, hope to reach some solid ground in the 26-member block of the Schengen countries So sad!
Thus, we pray fervently for peace and safety for these thousands of refugees far across our borders, seeking safe shelter for the children and the aged and themselves; for overseas workers who brave kidnapping threats and tanim bala extortion, for the hundreds of victims of mishaps in the air, at sea, and on land.
Indeed, with all that is happening in the world, we cannot help but say to the Lord a thousand, a million thanks, our overwhelming gratitude that we, here in our own corner, despite typhoons Reming, Sendong, Yolanda and Bopha (total of 11,000 plus deaths), are safe with our loved ones. http://www.rappler. com/move-ph/issues/disasters /64916-worst-natural-disasters-philippines.
To find my comfort zone, I shall tag along my mind to faraway places, in the groves of libraries and look back to celebrated Christmas stories we keep re-reading since our younger years. Our choice begins with Charles Dickens’ famous novella A Christmas Carol of 170 years ago whose “sour, stingy and miserly Ebenezer Scrooge underwent an ideological, ethical, and emotional transformation after the supernatural visitations of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet to Come.”
Scrooge changed “from a man who only cares about himself and his wealth to a man who cares about others,” illustrating “how self-serving, insensitive people can be converted into charitable, caring, and socially conscious members of society, with each Ghost’s tale functioning as a parable.” This story advances the Christian moral ideals associated with Christmas— “generosity, kindness, and universal love for one’s community.”
Then there’s William Sydney Porter (September/1862 – June/910) whose penname as O. Henry brought to us The Gift of the Magi. This story contains “many elements for which O. Henry is widely known — including poor, working-class characters, a humorous tone, realistic detail, and a surprise ending.” Affirmation of “unselfish love — ( such love as the story’s title suggests), is like the gifts given by the wise men, called the Magi, who brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the newborn Jesus.”
A third favorite is Hans Christian Anderson’s (April/1805 – August/1875) The Little Match Girl –“that sheds a light on a very oppressed and silent group in Europe — its children.” Delighting children worldwide with his poetry and stories which have been translated into more than 150 languages, Anderson was feted by royalty. His stories inspired motion pictures, plays, ballets, and animated films.
Another Christmas story is A Letter from Santa Claus by Mark Twain whose real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910). Noted for his Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, called “the Great American Novel,” and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Twain “was a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists, and European royalty.”
A fifth story is Leo Tolstoy’s Papa Panov’s Special Christmas. Tolstoy was Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (September/1828 – November/1910), a Russian writer widely regarded as among the greatest of novelists. He was also an essayist, dramatist, and educational reformer making him the most influential member of the aristocratic Tolstoy family.
Originally written in French by Ruben Saillens and “then translated into English by Tolstoy, Papa Panov’s Special Christmas is a very thoughtful story which ”excellently introduces young children to the principles of kindness based on the Bible text ‘I was hungry, you gave me food, I was thirsty, you gave me water’ which Jesus used to make us understand how we should serve Him by serving each other.” <http://osr.org/christmas/20-famous-christmas-stories/>
Many writers have been inspired to embed the Christmas spirit in both fiction and verse. Book stores display new editions with attractive covers portraying the Christmas spirit of “charity, forgiveness, friendship, unselfish love and generosity.”
Charles Dickens’ Scrooge has become part of our vocabulary representing someone mean and miserly. Indeed these Christmas stories are lifetime inspirations for many among us. Here’s a toast to the Christmas stories our readers like best! <http://osr. org/christmas/20-famous-christmas-stories/>
* * *
Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon, PhD, is one of the Philippines’ most accomplished educators and experts on institutional management in colleges and universities. Her studies have included not only education and pedagogy but also literature. She has studied not only in the topmost universities in the Philippines but also in Germany, Britain and Japan. She is now the Vice-President for External Relations and Internationalization of Liceo de Cagayan University (in Cagayan de Oro) after serving as its VP for Academic Affairs for six and a half years concurrent to her ten years as dean in the Graduate Studies of the same university. She holds a Lifetime Professional Achievement Award from the central office of the Commission on Higher Education.