Oh look, yet another Christmas TV special ! How touching to have the meaning of Christmas brought to us by cola, fast food, and beer. Who’d have ever guessed that product consumption, popular entertainment and spirituality would mix so harmoniously? – Bill Watterson
[ Note : belated happy birthdays to Dr Janet del Mundo and Jo Nolasco (21st Dec), SJCSAA Pres. Johann Tan (22nd Dec), Noel Avisado (24th Dec) and John Santiago (26th Dec), not being cynical with the quote above btw, though it seems like the media, and therefore its advertiser-masters, have taken control over Christmas. Manigong bagong taon po ! ]
AMONG FORMER Commonwealth and Anglophile countries, there is a 13th day of Christmas, an extra 24 hours for those who haven’t had enough of the celebrations, shopping and feel-good moments with friends, relatives and loved ones. The equivalent of Black Friday in the US, and the scattered “midnight madness” sales back home, it’s the hysterically commercial and inventory-obliterating Boxing Day sales in countries like NZ, where your accidental migrant currently resides.
The origins of Boxing Day are obscured by age and history, but tradesmen used to bring around boxes for gifts and donations from people who wanted to show their appreciation at the end of the year. Later, the term expanded to “boxing” Christmas gifts or putting them in boxes, after finishing up with the stress of preparing Christmas dinner, which was after all the central event of the season.
This year, as you very well know, Christmas fell on a Sunday, and so the statutory holiday was supposed to fall on the next day. But since Boxing Day automatically fell on the 26th, we couldn’t have TWO free days crowding one 24 hour period, and so for the first time in long time (in NZ at least) there was a free Monday and Tuesday following a Christmas Sunday. That’s why instead of the already-generous 13th day, we were going to have yet another, 14th day, which Mahal (and by extension, yours truly) was sure to take advantage of.
Ironic, but Mahal, a mall worker, wanted some down time at the mall. She’d spent all her working hours rolling sushi and mixing seafood morsels within a one square meter space next to the bento counter. She wanted to see the rest of the mall, and no amount of feeble protestation from Your Loyal Batchmate / Accidental Migrant kabayan would stop her.
Why? Well for one thing, it was our very first anniv as esposo y esposa, certainly a milestone for all couples swimming in the sea of love. Next, for as long as we could remember since the silly season started it was the first time both of us were on days off together. Before, it was either her or me between shifts, on regular leave or forced leave. Never both, and so this was probably the only time now and in the next few weeks we were going to have some time together outside the house. Indoors we were always sleeping or eating, or if I was lucky, doing the nasty. >:) Lastly but not the leastly, Boxing Day also happened to be Mahal’s birthday. How much more eventful could this get ???
To be sure, it was nowhere near the mall experience that she or I, or any other Pinoy we knew was used to. Even the largest mall in the Wellington region, impressive Westfield Queensgate which any Wellingtonian (the region, not just the city) is proud of, has “only” around 45,000 square meters of store space. Compare this to MegaMall back home, site of so many of our adventures, which (not including support space like parking, administrative areas etc.) is a mini-city of 348,000 square meters! Unbelievable as it sounds, it’s not even the largest mall in Metro Manila. 😉
For additional perspective, Queensgate Westfield boasts of foot traffic of around 8 million per annum. This is admittedly impressive for NZ standards, but Megamall gets an equivalent number of visitors every two weeks, no exaggeration given the fact that it can comfortably host 4 million mallgoers an any given time, and you and I know that the mall is frequently filled to the brim with window shoppers and commuters trying to beat the heat, especially on weekends.
But back to our down time together. Given the fact that we had anniversary, birthday, not to mention Christmas merrymaking to make up for, I was more than ready to accompany Mahal not just to the mall but to every shop she chose to visit.
First was a telecom provider store, with all the nifty gadgets and handhelds showcased in user-friendly demo modules, which I quickly got bored with, good thing she was only looking for a case to protect her device. I was not as lucky with the next few stores : a shoe store, an accessory store, and a store for summer garments only. I tried to act interested in her selection of styles and color schemes, how tall her shoe heels as befitted her outfits (it seems that there is now no limit to how tall your shoes can be, as long as you can walk in them stilts), and how gaudy and brilliantly eye-hurting her earrings bracelets and headbands (yes, some headbands can hurt your eyes if you look too closely at them) could be. After much rolling of eyes, I think I gave up after the fourth store, and she mercifully suggested that I wait in the corridor in front of each store area as she entered and exited them.
The first thing I noticed as I was waiting was that there were other bored/stressed spouses/boyfriends doing the same thing I was doing: waiting, and trying not to be bored to death while doing said waiting. Of course, eventually we realized we were looking at each other. Kids were a bit luckier since they were having fun in temporary playpens thoughtfully provided by the mall (and which were probably designed to keep their moms in said mall longer).
Given all the crazy sales, the surplus of shopping time, and the gift-giving mood, it didn’t take a genius to predict that we would later be laden with shopping bags filled with gifts and treasures that, in a day or so, we would never see again. Well, being generous once a year was a fair bargain, given all the blessings we’d enjoyed.
And for at least ONCE a year, the mall in our temporary adopted land, thousands of kilometers away from home, reminded us of Divisoria, Bulacan and Megamall. Cheek by jowl with rabid, hysterical buyers that didn’t yield an inch. There certainly is no place like home, Christmas and the rest of the year.
Thanks for reading !
- Boxing Day (thesilentsoul.wordpress.com)
- It’s Christmas all over again as bargain hunters reel in Boxing Day deals (calgaryherald.com)
- The Day After Christmas (thedistinctdot.com)
- Dec 26 Boxing Day (witchesofthecraft.com)