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Page added on December 26, 2018

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’Tis the Season: Giving Togetherness

The Christmas-New Year’s season in Canada is when friends and family come together and celebrate the many things that this time means to them— the birth of Christ, a time to give and receive goodies under the tree, spending lots of money at commercial establishments, throwing parties for the year to come, or just getting together to pass time with one another — putting differences in politics, religion or otherwise aside.  The Filipino community loves to celebrate meaningful occasions with a passion, and the Christmas-New Year’s season in Canada is no exception.  There will be family or social gatherings — some elaborate and extensive, and others subdued and simple.  I would like to think that most Filipino-Canadians will be blessed with these special moments with enough mindfulness to share their sense of togetherness, but unfortunately this is not always the case.

The holiday season in Canada can be a very lonely time for many people.  Individuals suffering from clinical depression struggle to get through the holiday season.  Depression does not take a holiday, much less when the one suffering wants to engage in holiday festivities, leaving the person feeling isolated, but in need of support from people already preoccupied in their own social circles engaged in holiday celebrations.  For some people, this time is associated with a negative experience in seasons past — the death of someone close, the end of a relationship, or the failure of an endeavour or pursuit.  For others, it is simply a time to endure because they are alone in the world — no family or close friends, or no social ties strong enough or long standing enough from which an invitation to festive holiday dinners and get-togethers would come.

The point is that many people in Canada’s Filipino community, and many more outside it, will spend the holiday season alone.  Most will endure the solitude, and sadly enough they will be eager to see the holidays come to an end sooner than later, so that a degree of normalcy will resume in their lives with regular work schedules, normal business operating hours, and social occasions not necessarily requiring a demonstration of having close ties with family and friends.

I have always admired those who had room in their hearts and minds to invite people to their social gatherings or homes during the Christmas-New Year’s season.  I once knew a woman whose husband commanded an RCMP detachment that was staffed with many Mounties from outside the region.  This woman said her season of giving involved making a Christmas dinner for 4 to 12 people or more, because her husband would invite members of the detachment for dinner — members who otherwise would have spent many nights eating alone during the holidays, away from friends and family.  For this woman and her Mountie husband, the thoughtfulness represented a simple but powerful philosophy:  making a seat at your table for someone else during the festive season was within their means, according to the dictate of their hearts, and was a gift of hospitable togetherness at that time of year.

This is not a time of year to spend alone, much less so every year.  I know that the Filipino-Canadian community is full of warmth and giving as much as it is full of cheer and celebrating.  I find the community one whose members invite people to their gatherings; but as generous as this tendency is, it may be better received and more self-rewarding at this time of year if it came from a place of thoughtful giving, reflective of the holiday season.  Filipino-Canadians have much to contribute socially to Canada by way of its openness and willingness to share its sense of togetherness.  Too many Filipinos new to Canada may not have the social networks or the financial resources to have the holiday season they deserve in a new country, and there are many more people outside the community who will for one reason or another spend the season alone.

The suggestion here is not that members of the community invite everyone to their homes during the holiday season, or that preserving the season for family time should not be respected or honoured.  Rather, the suggestion is to take stock in what you have to be grateful for, celebrate what you have, and share what you can — that is, share some togetherness with others who face this time by themselves — but to do so according to the dictate of your heart at this time of year.  Sharing your time and space this season to offer togetherness, even with just one person, honours the season of giving.  Reach out to people you know who may be by themselves this season.  Ask what their plans are for the holidays and invite them to what you can share this season if they face being by themselves.

If you are one of those people who may face spending the season alone, but not sure you want to, try to find people in the same situation and have your own kind of season of togetherness.    Offering others to spend some of your time together with them this season is a great gift.

Dennis D. Paglinawan is a Calgarian who has worked and studied internationally. He holds a PhD in Political Studies from the University of Auckland, New Zealand.









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