By Tracy Cabrera
Christmas lights brighten the country’s so-called Christmas Capital, Tangub City, in Misamis Occidental.
MANILA — Filipino priests are calling on the public to focus on the meaning of Christmas and avoid secular cultural performance and grand Christmas scenes.
In an interview, Father Roy Bellen of the Office of Communications in the Archdiocese of Manila said Christmas is the true gift and joy that God offers human beings, so people should prepare their spirits to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ religiously rather than with traditional activities and lavish celebrations.
Fr. Bellen noted in the past that many parishes held cultural performances before Midnight Mass while choirs sang secular songs on romantic love and native land and dancers did hip-hop dances in churches.
“This year all those secular music and performances are not allowed to take place on Christmas Eve,” he said.
The priest also called on parishes to cut extravagant spending on decorating churches and making nativity scenes as the faithful are experiencing financial difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic downturn.
“We should go to confession, reconcile ourselves with our brothers and sisters and with God to celebrate Christmas,” he stressed, adding that it is useless celebrating Jesus’ birth with lavish nativity scenes, artificial Christmas trees and colorful moving lights.
He said Catholics should celebrate Christmas meaningfully by paying attention to their neighbors who are homeless, alone and suffer illnesses and lack of food. They should share Christmas joy and Christian charity with other people.
In reaction, church groups have expressed support to Fr. Bellen’s call for thriftiness.
“We highly appreciate Fr. Roy’s helpful suggestions on reducing Christmas celebrations,” said the 45-year-old single mother of one, who now collects plastic bottles for a living. Many attend retreats, go to confession, receive the Eucharist and make donations to people in need this Advent.
Fr. Bellen cited how several parishes have been prompted reuse old nativity scenes and ornaments this year as people struggle to make donations due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said that parishes must decorate the church beautifully as a destination to introduce Catholicism to other people but they need not be lavish.
“We try to bring them Christmas peace and joy because Christmas is a religious festival for all people regardless of their backgrounds,” he added.
Traditionally, local parishes start to decorate churches and erect nativity scenes two weeks before Christmas as a way to remind people about the coming festive season.
People including followers of other faiths decorate their houses and roads with moving lights, Christmas trees and Santa Claus images. (AI/MTVN)