Sunday, December 16, 2007

My Grown-Up Christmas Tips List

ROOTS&WINGS Column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, December 16, 2007

Christmas day is just a heartbeat away and you can really feel it everywhere. In a week’s time, the kids will be done with school and I suspect that most homes will be in a mad state of preparing the homes for the holiday. Already, there are sales galore in practically every mall in the metro and many stores are doing brisk business.
So much of Christmas has become commercialized but let not the material trappings put a damper your holiday mood or take away the true meaning of Christmas. As we prepare to remember our loved ones with gifts of appreciation, and prepare sumptuous meals in anticipation of family reunions, let us not forget that there are many others who are in need. Not only during Christmas, but each and everyday, we must strive to pay it forward. Here are a few ways to celebrate a more meaningful and hopefully, stress-free Christmas.

• Give gifts that give back.

This year I made a conscious effort to try and choose gifts that one way or another give back. One of the nicest and most practiocal ones I found are Ichay Bulaong’s Luntian bags at Her bags are completely sewn and printed by a group of womenfolk from San Teodoro, Mabini, Batangas. Starting off with one mananahi, the livelihood program now benefits 21 families. Email Ichay at for orders.

Another environmentally-friendly gift that gives back are safe, non-toxic,
environmentally correct household cleaners created by a company called Messy Bessy Cleaners. Krie Reyes-Lopez and her siblings set up a project called HOUSE (Helping Ourselves Through Sustainable Enterprise) and Messy Bessy is one of the enterprises that helps disadvantaged youth. Krie says that while they are aiming for Messy Bessy to provide homes with safe and natural cleaners, they are also providing marginalized people experiences in manufacturing, accounting, sales and hopefully a lot more. I like their lavender linen spray and eucalyptus all-purpose scrub. Email them at or call 0917-830-3003 for inquiries.

• Pack Christmas care packages instead of giving money to those who provide services.

When December comes, many of our homes become flooded with the ubiquitous white envelope with the “Merry Christmas Ma’am/Sir” stamped on it in various hues of red, green or blue. For the last few years now, I decided that I wasn’t going to give money anymore to our usual service providers – postman, garbage collectors, and every imaginable bill collector you can think of during Christmas. Instead, my children and I, together with our househelp will put together a Christmas care package composed of noodles, sardines, soap, toothpaste, toothbrush for the adults; and one with cookies, candies and some toiletries for the children who ring our doorbell or knock on our car windows. In doing so, you can be assured that the goods will be for their personal consumption and the money you have spent does not go to waste.

• Sing or play Christmas carols.

Every morning now, for the last week or so, my children wake up to the sound of Christmas music. In the evenings, we play the softer, slower ones that lull us to sleep while the mornings are reserved for the hipper (I just love Babyface’s version of “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer”) Christmas carols. Nothing says "holiday season" like Christmas carols and so I make sure that I have them playing whenever possible. Since I discovered this wonderful website the music on my laptop has been on, non-stop.

• Clean out your closets and donate your children’s old (but in good-condition) toys and books.

This holiday season, teach your children the true spirit of giving by asking them to choose one of their new or still in good-condition toys to give to a child in need. There are many organizations that you can choose to donate their books and toys too. This year, Migi’s Corner, a foundation we set up in memory of my son, is doing a toy drive for the children of Barangay Rio Hondo in Zambonga. During the last typhoon, several towns were hit by giant waves and the effect was tsunami-like, diplacing a total of almost 2000 families. If you would like to bring cheer to these children who have lost not only property but in many cases, family members, as well, please donate your old books and in good condition toys. Email or call 0910-744-6469

• Volunteer your time and energy.

Give a little of yourself this holiday season and helping others is always a great way to spread cheer and love. Take time out of your busy holiday schedule to volunteer at a hospital ward, an orphanage, a women’s shelter or an old folk’s home. Bring them a little something or at th very least, bring them your smile and your companionship.

• Spend time together as a family and watch uplifting Christmas-themed movies.

My personal favorite is the 1946 Frank Capra classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life”
starring James Stewart. Stewart plays a man about to commit suicide during the holidays (statistically, the highest suicide rates unfortunately always occur around the holidays) because he’s financially ruined. An angel stops him in his tracks by showing him what life would be like if he’d never existed. A beautiful movie that celebrates the resiliency of man and the beauty of life.

• Shop in comfort.

I have become my mother when it comes to shopping – scouring the shops in my jeans,
tees and hoodie. My greatest find this season has given me so much comfort while walking around. The Merrell Women’s Relay Stretch is awesome in the support that it provides. When I tried to find out what made it different, I discovered that it was because of the Q-Form™ technology that compensates for a woman’s pronounced “Q angle” (the angle between hip and knee) to alleviate discomfort. This also reduces the wear and tear of shoes, enabling them to last longer. For women who love to walk, this is the perfect shoe!

• Re-connect with old friends but don’t stress yourself out trying to get-together with everyone.
It’s the time of the year when there are parties all over town and suddenly old friends whom we haven’t seen the rest of the year, pop up from out of nowhere wanting to get together. Christmas is a wonderful time to re-kindle and renew ties but don’t stress yourself out and in the process get yourself sick. Prioritize the events you really must say yes to. The rest can be put off after the madness of the holiday season.

• Get your kids involved in all the preparations.

A child is the reason for this wonderful season that the whole Christian world celebrates. Christmas to my mind will always be magical in a child’s eyes. Involve your kids in as many activities as they are able to – wrapping the gifts, trimming the tree, doing charity or volunteer work, cooking the meals. It is in the making of these memories together as one family that makes the Christmas season all the more meaningful, making memories that they will carry with them until the time that they have families of their own.

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