Meanings of a PANDEMIC Christmas

Column box-Dr. Carl E. Balita-Entrepreneurs’ Footprints

CHRISTMAS is a beautiful tradition, especially in the Catholic faith.  This biggest and longest celebration of the year is generating happy emotions through festive revelries.  In the Philippines, its onset is in September and ends in January.  The child-like human nature finds spiritual experiences of faith in re-living the stories of how Jesus Christ was born by Virgin Mary in the manger.

Business and commerce benefit from this season as the spirit of giving comes in wrapped gifts and festive celebrations across all ages and strata of the society that even non-Catholics participate in. Christmas is probably the happiest time of the year.

Nine months after the onset of the pandemic, Christmas seems to give a sigh of relief that the Covid-19 ordeal will soon end, and that the incoming year will usher in a new chapter for humanity’s history.

But the pandemic experience gives the Christmas celebration some disruptive twists.  With a deeper introspection, we may conclude that the meaning of Christmas during this time may be derived from the acronym PANDEMIC.

Prayer for the world.

Acceptable excuses on gifts.

Need to be home.

Digitalized connectivity.

Entertainment at its rawest forms.

Memory Throwback of “happier” pasts.

Inclusive entrepreneurial playing field.

Charity at home.

Prayer for the world.

The spiritually-inspired celebration led us to prayers, but the sincere prayer for the world makes more sense this year.   Personal and family safety do not guarantee anything unless the pandemic is resolved in the world, and everybody needs to pray for that.  While travels have been limited, the curiosity and concern of people for what is happening around the world is heightened and enabled by social media. Awareness of the global snapshots of the pandemic is high.

The Mother of Philippine Franchising, Ms. Bing Limjoco, who chairs the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), notes that this Christmas 2020 is a reminder about  the true meaning of Christmas as we go back to the basics, genuine family time and real bonding. She is optimistic that God listens to the prayers of all humanity to end this pandemic soon.

Acceptable excuses on gifts.

The economic crisis justifies the excuse from giving gifts. Anything beyond the basic and the essential are regarded as luxurious.  This reduced not only the spending but also the pressure to reciprocate for gifts we are given during the holidays.  The relevant gifts shift to plants, food and personally-made items which give the tradition of gift-giving its deeper meaning.

Dr. Jaime Almora, President of the Philippine Hospital Association, shares that their Christmas celebration was not spectacular, but turned out to be more meaningful and joyful because of the sharing of talents and merry making, not of materials gifts that, in the past, diluted the celebrations and made past Christmas celebrations stressfully expensive.

Need to be home.

While quarantine limits movements and gatherings, it allows economic activities. But the paranoid economy keeps most people safe at home.  Even the church’s limited capacity engaged online Simbang Gabi.  Sellers in bazaars, malls and weekend markets expressed decline in sales as compared with past years, not only because of the economic crisis but also because of the perceived reluctance of people to be exposed outside.  But this strengthen the basic unit of the society – the family.

Rhoda Caliwara, President of the Philippine Association of Legitimate Service Contractors (PALSCON), is grateful of how Christmas has turned to be an intimate home-based family celebration so blessed with the people she loves. In spite of uncertainties, she is amazed by how she has learned to appreciate everything these days.

Digitalized connectivity.

The digitalized communication channels enable people to be in touched with each other beyond time and space, and in exponential ways.  The simplest SMS greetings to virtual events are new ways to ensure socialization between and among families and friends as well as companies and organizations.  There is no excuse to be able to connect with people who matter. A simple post in social media account enables greetings to everyone within its reach.

This writer’s company, the CBRC, had great memories of extravagant themed Christmas parties in hotels, gardens and other festive venues.  Christmas 2020 was reduced to a virtual party but became as exciting as the face-to-face parties in the past.  The virtual event that was held costs less but achieved the same socialization and interaction that involved everyone from its 120 branches nationwide.

Entertainment in its rawest forms.

What used to be expensive physically staged shows and performances have now been made available through the virtual delivery modes. Celebrities and entertainment companies have packaged shows that are free and accessible online, and we have somehow become a satisfied audience to it.  But the rawest form of entertainment is when the talented and the histrionics take the virtual stage to provide their own dose of entertainment. Innovation in movie viewing, virtual games like BINGO and other interactive amusements in the online platforms have offered alternative to fun and yuletide excitement.

Showbiz Couple Isay Alvarez and Robert Sena note in their social media accounts an almost fully-booked calendar during the quarantine.  But they are celebrating Christmas this year in a new and special way.  They shall wait for their adult children to be in their provincial home and spend days together and cook food by themselves – and provide entertainment for each other as a small family.

Memory Throwback of “happier” pasts

Social media these days is flooded with reposts of throwback parties with tinge of regret that these couldn’t happen in the same way again, at least this year.  Such reminiscing presents a greater appreciation of what were ordinary during the ordinary times of the past, and become illusive dreams of the present.  Such appreciation heightens the valuing of shared moments and experiences of the past towards becoming more grateful persons.  It gives a regretful lesson to some who realized that they did not optimize previous opportunities for meaningful engagements.  This also leads to emotionally charge relationships that hunger for more meaningful moments today towards better memories for the future.

To Ambassador Benedicto Yujuico, PCCI President, Christmas 2020 is special and beautiful because we have learned to appreciate more the activities we have taken for granted during previous Christmases.

Inclusive entrepreneurial playing field.

The social media and the surge of the e-commerce present a level playing field for small and big businesses and for old and new brands alike.  The people’s search for more reasonable purchase from socially relevant businesses gives the young start-ups a great chance to compete with stable brands in the online selling arena.  The quest for more meaningful gifts gives young entrepreneurial Gen-Z’s, a big segment of the markert who are known for purpose-driven innovations, the opportunity to get both public attention and sales.  The value-for-money propositions are very much welcome in e-commerce platforms which now enjoys the patronage of a very wide market base.

Sherril Quintana, President of the Philippine Franchise Association, recently launched the book “Yes, the Filipino Brand Can” to communicate that the micro- small and medium enterprises have seemingly equal opportunity in the new marketplace, even in the global arena.  Her book cites how inclusive purpose of business, like her Oryspa brand, is appreciated by the emerging markets of the world.

Charity at home.

Charity begins at home and extends to adjacent neighborhood and communities as introspective reflections during quarantine awakened the kindness of the human spirit in us.  The fear within incites empathy and genuine concern for others.  The limited resources shared with others promote abundance mentality that gently whispers to one’s ear that there is more than enough for everyone.  The best human nature of stewardship became vibrant in the social nature of men and women who hold no guarantee of their insulation neither from the threat of the infection nor from the economic impact of the pandemic.  The other calamities have soften the hearts of many not only to empathize but also to take action and do something to help.

Jorge Weineke, President of the Association of Filipino Franchisors Inc (AFFI), notes that kindness is in the air where instead of counting the gifts we receive, we count the random acts of kindness we are doing for others.  He observed that in the recent months, everybody seems to be willing to help anyone and everyone.

Indeed, a lot around us have changed because of the pandemic. And we anticipate that more may change along the way towards recovery. But the thing that does not and will not change is the Story of Christmas, which is about a couple in crisis finding a place to give birth to a child Jesus.  And their footprints led them to the manger to actualize the divine plan that changed the fate of humanity.


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