With Christmas becoming more commercialized each year, a Catholic Church official on Monday encouraged Filipinos to reclaim its true meaning by never forgetting the real significance of the season.
In his Christmas message, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said that Christmas is about a poor couple, Joseph and Mary, having difficulty finding a room in Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world, on that glorious night more than 2,000 years ago.
“Christmas is a feast of faith. Without faith, [it] will only be a social festival,” Villegas said.
“Christmas giving is only a commercial gimmickry for profit and business gain [and] wishing ‘Merry Christmas’ without faith is no better than fools laughing madly without reason,” Villegas, vice president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, added.
Villegas’ message echoed the theme of the Christmas message issued by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle on Saturday.
In that message, Tagle encouraged Filipinos to renew their faith in God this holy season.
Without faith, Tagle said, “Christmas will be emptied of its meaning.”
In his own message sent from the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Villegas observed that today, the holy season has become just an adjective to describe parties and bonuses “because we have forgotten that Christmas is an event of the past that must still continue to happen through us.”
“Christmas has become a season for festive lighting and amazing carnivals,” Tagle said.
“[P]eople have forgotten how difficult it must have been for Mary and Joseph to find a room in the inn—the [poor] couple continues to be rejected in our broken homes,” he said.
Villegas pointed out that Christmas carols have been replaced by songs about missed loved ones and that caroling has metamorphosed into yearly fundraisers because people have put a price tag on “almost everything and everyone.”
“[P]eople have forgotten the angels that announced [Jesus’] birth, the sweetest carolers of all time,” he said.
The traditional simbang gabi—a novena of Masses celebrated at dawn—is also slowly turning to be just another feature of Christmas in the Philippines, with Filipinos forgetting that it was originally a thanksgiving novena for the gift of Catholic faith, “which we now ridicule and ignore and consider obsolete,” Villegas said.