On the 22nd of December, on my way home from work, I passed through one of the busiest streets in London. Three days prior, the government imposed Tier 4 restrictions in London. This meant that non-essential shops would close. What would normally be the busiest days in Oxford Street suddenly became relatively quiet. By relatively quiet, I mean there were still a few people out and about, however much less than what it would normally be this time of the year. The people I saw no longer carrying shopping bags, instead they held their phones just taking photos of the famous Christmas lights. The Christmas carols only heard from the trikes speeding along the street. As I walked through the blue light icy arches of South Molton Street in Mayfair, I was reminded that in 3 days, it will be Christmas day.
In the last five years, we have been spending Christmas with J's family in Newcastle. We would normally leave London on the 23rd of December, but this year, we opted to stay in London. We wanted to protect J's family and ourselves, most especially because a new variant of the Coronavirus was recently discovered, which apparently is more contagious than the previous one. We were both willing to sacrifice one Christmas away from family for more Christmases to spend with them.
Came the 24th of December, Christmas Eve in the Philippines. I have not spent Christmas with my family since 2001. Not that it really matters as we are used to spending Christmas apart, however I also have not gone home in more than five years. This really makes it more difficult for me as my parents are getting older. I know they are only in their early 70's, but they are not healthy. They now have a few co-morbidities which have worried me more this year. The only consolation I have right now is the fact that I can speak to them everyday via messenger calls or video calls. I wish my parents were healthier, but I am still grateful that they both made it this year. This is the reason why I was so happy to see my mother joining the rest of my family during their noche buena, albeit only a short while and on a wheelchair- something that has changed in the last two months. This is just one of the little things that I am grateful for right now.
This morning as I prepared for our Christmas lunch, I thought of those children who may not have food to eat today. I was reminded of the people who lost their homes and livelihood from typhoon Ulysses. I wished I could have done more than donating my coffee money and my food allowance. But then again, every little helps. One day, I know I will be able to help more. I thought of those who lost a loved one or two during the pandemic. I thought of those who have lost and are still losing their jobs. Those who remain in the hospital, potentially fighting for their lives. I thought about those who will be spending Christmas alone. I thought of my friends who are working tirelessly to look after the sick. I wished the world was a better place.
At around midday, we had a zoom Christmas catch up with J's family. It is J's first Christmas away from his family since he was born. It felt very different not being physically with them on Christmas day. The kids have grown- it's amazing how they've changed in a span of a year. What would normally be at least four days worth of exchanging stories, sharing laughters, playing with the kids and creating new memories have been compressed into two hours. It's a change that I am still trying to come into terms with. And this is just one of the sacrifices that we have to make to keep each other safe.
As I write this blog, I reflect on the little things that I am grateful for this Christmas. As J would say, we are already very lucky to have a roof over our head, food on our table and clothes to wear. All the gifts that we have received this Christmas are only secondary. What matters most is the fact that although we are miles away from our families, we remain united in our hearts. For me, I was happy to see my family happy despite what we had to go through in the last two months. No fancy gifts for us, but for me, the most expensive gifts are the ones you actually feel inside your heart, not on your hands.
I know that a lot of people are spending Christmas differently this year. I hope that some people who are able to celebrate Christmas with their loved-ones realise how lucky they are.
To those who are going through something right now, I still hope that you find happiness, no matter how little, in the spirit of Christmas. Please remember that this too shall pass, and you are not alone.