Saturday, 17 December 2011

Preparing for Christmas

When we arrived at DBTC back at the beginning of October, the Christmas tree was already up in the community room, so I guess you could say they have been preparing for Christmas ever since; but over the last week or so getting ready for Christmas has begun in real earnest.

We have welcomed three sets of visiting carol singers from different Salesian communities: the Seminarians from Lawaan, Pasil youth centre and Boys Home, Liloan. 

I'm not sure exactly what we were expecting: half a dozen children with a CD singing Away in a Manger fairly tunelessly perhaps ... but what we got was a carefully choreographed spectacle of singing, playing instruments and dancing.

Pasil could probably claim to have the best singers, but Boys Home may have won on showmanship (and the fact that in spite of my cringing when the recorder group initially appeared, they turned out to be really quite tuneful.)

Above all, in the case of all those we have seen, they sang, danced and played with a real sense of fun, laughter and joy.

Then, this weekend, the parties have begun, starting on Friday afternoon with the TVED Christmas party, and, as we have come to expect: TVED certainly knows how to throw a party! Food, a Christmas hat competition and lots of games filled the afternoon.

Attendance of the party was not optional, nor was active participation: but then again: why wouldn't you want to join in when life is this much fun! What makes everything at TVED so special: parties included, is the sense of community and the way everyone is included - and not just included, but obviously really wanting to be there and be part of it. The other two parties this weekend, the staff party this afternoon and Fr Mac's party for the street children from the feeding programme tomorrow have a lot to live up to: but will probably have a joy all of their own.

It hasn't all just been partying though: we have also been preparing for Christmas by taking part in the Misa de Gallo Novena, a Philippine tradition to attend dawn mass for each of the last nine days before Christmas. So we have been crawling out of bed in time to be in the chapel for 4.30am: only to find yesterday that by the time we arrived it was standing room only and as well as the crowds inside the church, there were people listening by loudspeaker outside too.

An advent sacrifice, certainly, a form of fasting different from anything I have experienced before, but, despite the early hour and tiredness, these masses are proving to be a real source and celebration of joy: a genuine preparation for the celebration of Christmas. Giving something up, yes, but not in order to be miserable or to suffer, rather in order to share a greater joy.

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