Although we are still a few weeks away from Christmas Day, Christmas Season - at least in the Filipino tradition - has already, truly begun. Jose Marie Chan’s Christmas songs are already starting to dominate the airwaves. Christmas trees are being set up in many places. Christmas lights are beginning to light up the streets at night.
Christmas lights, Christmas tree, Christmas balls...what should be our priority Christmas decor? Ultimately, we should go back to the real essence of Christmas. Christmas is not about a beautiful pine tree put inside your home. Christmas is not really about beautiful, blinking lights. Christmas isn’t about multi-colored, beautiful balls. Christmas isn’t about “Happy Holidays”, or holiday greetings.
Christmas is ultimately the birthday of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is all about His birthday. Amid the hustle and bustle of the season’s highly-festive din, many people tend to forget the real essence of Christmas, which is Jesus’ birth. We tend to get lost amid so much Christmas shopping, Christmas parties, lechon, and gifts, and actually do forget the Birthday Celebrant Himself (other than a quick online Mass on Christmas day).
If we look back at the original Christmas, there was nothing materially festive about it. There were no Christmas lights. There was no Christmas tree. There were no banners or special greetings which said “Happy Holidays!”. In the first Christmas, there was nothing else but the little Baby Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes, in the arms of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and under the watchful eyes of St. Joseph.
This image of the first Christmas - Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the manger together with the farm animals - is the most important image we should have and keep in our homes this Christmas. This image of the first Christmas is best represented by the Christmas Belen.
The Belen - an image or statue representing the First Christmas - is the most important Christmas decor we should have in our homes this Christmas. In fact, it should be the centerpiece of our Christmas decors - not the Christmas tree. What does a tree have to do with Jesus’ birthday, after all?
The Belen helps remind all of us of the true essence of Christmas. The Belen reminds us that Christmas isn’t about all the material extravagances of the season. Rather, it is about the Birth of Our Saviour in that humble manger, in the presence of Mary and Joseph.