The Advent countdown officially began last Sunday, and worldwide, Christmas calendars are now being marked each day. As soon as December dawned, people became busy ticking off their gift lists and getting caught in traffic snarls around the city, trying to get some Christmas shopping done.
As we celebrate the Christmas season though, it seems that many of us feel the somber tone brought by the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda. Hence, Christmas shopping and planning have been modest and restrained this year. In fact, it isn’t unusual to hear of many companies and their employees who have opted to set aside their party funds and allotted them for donations instead. Yet, knowing how Filipinos love Christmas, keeping celebrations and gifts simple might be the best way to observe the Yuletide season this year. And so, here are some gift ideas you might want to keep in mind.
For years, my school staff and I have planned charity drives that involved all our young students in Bulacan. Thus, as early as October, we had committed to donating library books to our neighboring public school in the area. It was both sad and startling that when we sounded off the idea to the school’s principal, we learned that the school did not in fact have a library at all. Unfortunately, this reality pervades many of our schools and is often a rule rather than an exception. And so, if you’re ever in a gift-giving spirit this time of year, drop by your nearest public school and donate books instead.
One of the things that would also be nice to give may be purchased from social enterprises that aim to support impoverished communities and families. Recently, people have begun to recognize the innovative product lines from Human Nature and Echo Store, both recent ventures into social entrepreneurship. These companies carry personal care products, food items, and even all-natural house cleaning materials. For me, the way they have packaged locally produced merchandise and the quality of the local products have been very impressive. One would even think that their products actually come from other parts of the world. Even better, these products are often environment-friendly and are quite reasonably priced as well.
If at all, gift-giving can also be made simple by making your own presents. My 12-year old daughter, Beatrice, has kindly spared me of thinking about gifts for her own friends as she’s avowed to bake her own cookies instead. Homemade gifts are always appreciated, especially when it’s a favorite family recipe or if the dish can be shared at the Noche Buena table.
Last year, the kids in our family came up with a most memorable gift for their lola. It was a photo collage of all the grandchildren, a memento now aptly placed in her office. Even without a professional photographer, the pictures’ bright everyday scenes warmly light up the room. The photo collage even came with a big sign that simply said, “We love you Lola!”
And lastly, just before we all get frantic with errands this season, it might be the perfect time to spare a bit of our blessings to those affected by Yolanda and the earthquakes in central Philippines. No matter how little or much we give, it will still be a big help. And so, choose a charity and make this Yuletide season one you’ll always remember and cherish. After all, the true essence of Christmas is best shared in the spirit of sincere generosity.
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