We all have a little Scrooge inside.
Sometime, somewhere, we’ve all had our hearts broken at Christmastime. And no, I don’t just mean the romantic kind. December 25, after all, falls within the tail-end of the year — a period rife for reflection on regrets and its many merciless permutations.
Every year since I was eleven, I’d make the rounds in my mother’s office and ask for aginaldo (Christmas treats, usually in the form of money) from her colleagues and superiors. I remember my eyes growing round as saucers that first time, when I came home with four digits worth of Christmas money.
For this little girl who sold candy bars and biscuits at school to augment her allowance, the aginaldo rounds were a godsend cash cow.
By and by as I grew in height, my benefactors’ fists clenched tighter and tighter around their purses. I made the rounds as an eighteen-year-old, knowing full well that it would be my last. Most of the gifts I had received from Mama’s friends at that point were the same things they would give one another — make-up, little pouches, mirrors and the like.
My little Scrooge would have humbugged at the idea of this Christmas. This is my last Christmas as an undergrad student, supposedly also the last where I enjoy immunity from the compulsion to give gifts to godchildren and various other aginaldo-seekers (oh how the tables
have will turn ed!).
But besides more responsibilities, the passing years have brought to me the kind of healthy ambivalence towards receiving gifts. I reach out to give little tokens of gratitude to those whose love, friendship, company and service have helped me grow in the past year(s).
As for the returns, I don’t think of them nearly as much as my entrepreneurial eleven-year-old self would have. What she would have considered the greatest Christmas heartbreak would be coming home empty-handed after an afternoon of pamamasko.
But I have come to realize that seeing people’s faces light up, or hearing how much they enjoyed or will enjoy what they’ve been given are gifts in themselves — one that no amount of red envelopes or bills can ever measure up against. And perhaps it would be the most awful Christmas heartbreak of all not to know the difference.