It has almost been two years since of the passing of my grandmother, Elizabeth De Leon Flores Lujan.
Last Christmas, close to the one year anniversary of her passing (when my grandfather was still with us) family and friends held a gathering to remember her and celebrate her. As part of the gathering we sang some Christmas songs, both in English and Chamorro. It was a bit strange though because even though I spent several Christmases and in fact most Christmases in my grandparents’ house in Mangilao, we never sang Christmas songs. We didn’t do much decorations either. I’ve wondered if this is because grandma was already older and not as interested in those things, or because of her strong religious beliefs.
Something that we would do for Christmas and at regular points through the year is sit around the dinner table and read bible lessons and bible verses. I am reminded of the film Saving Christmas which stars Kirk Cameron and is based on a bizarre religious premise. I am not a very religious person at all, despite my grandmother’s efforts, but with each passing year I strongly feel that Christmas has become far less about religion and faith and more focused on consumerism and earthly pleasures. For example, the way in which we invoke Santa Claus, Christmas trees and gift-giving seems to have little to no real religious connections. Saving Christmas is not built on the idea of saving Christmas from these consumerist coils, but rather the idea that all the consumerism and all the symbols which have nothing to do with religion and faith, but are historically actually tied to pagan religions that were combined with Christianity, are all ok and that we can be as obsessed with earthly delights as we want, since God wants us to be happy at Christmas and worship him in whatever way we want. My grandmother was very much of the camp that those sorts of things, candy canes, stockings, Santa Claus, reindeer etc. interfered with the religious importance of Christmas.
Last Christmas I went through the copy of the Chamorro Bible that I received from grandma in order to find some verses that would support my interpretation of her faith. It was something that made me a little happy, but also very sad. I’ve included some of the ones that I came across below.
Matthew 19:20 – 24
I patgon na taotao ilek-ña nu Guiya: Todu este siha hu adahi: Hafa trabiha fattå-ku?
Ilek-ña Si Jesus nu Guiya: Yanggen malago’ hao na un kabåles, hånao ya un bende todu i guinahå-mu, ya un nå’i i mamopble, ya u guaha guinahå-mu gi langhet: ya maila dalalak yu’.
Lao anai hu hungok i patgon na taotao este na sinangan, nina’triste ya ma’pos, sa’ guaha meggai iyo-ña na guinaha.
Ayu nai Si Jesus ilek-ña nu i disipulu-ña: Magåhet hu sangåni hamyo, na i manriku mappot humålom gi rainon langhet.
Ya hu sangåni hamyo ta’lo, na mas guse un kameyu maloffan gi matan haguha ki un riku u hålom gi rainan langhet.
Sa’ en pe’lo hamyo i tinago’ Yu’us, ya mantietiene fitme i tradision taotao siha (ni’ i mafa’gåsi i hara siha, yan i kopa siha, yan en få’tinas meggai na guinaha parehu yan este).
Ya ilek-ña nu siha, magåhet hamyo yumute’ i tinago Yu’us para en adahi i tradision-miyu.
Este na taotao siha, nu i labios-ñiha ha onra yu’, lao i korason-ñiha chågo’ giya Guahu.
Lao taisetbe i en adora yu’, manmama’na’na’gue i finana’guen-ñiha ni’ i sinangan taotao.
Ilek-ña Si Jesus nu siha: Yanggen Si Yu’us tatan-miyu, magåhet na en gefli’e’ yu’: sa’ Guahu humuyong yan måtto yu’ ginen as Yu’us. Ti humuyong yu’ ginen Guahu ha’, lao Guiya tumago’ yu’.
Sa’ taiguenao na ha guaiya Si Yu’us i tano’, ha nå’i ni’ linihis ha’ Lahi-ña i para todu ayu i humongge gui’, ti siña malingu, ya guaha lina’la’-ña taihinekok.
Sa’ ti ha tågo’ i Si Yu’us i lahi-ña guatu gi tano’ para u såpet i i tano’, lao para i tano’ u na’libre put Guiya.
I ti humongge gui’, ti u masåpet, ayu i ti humongge gui’ ayu u masåpet. Sa’ ti manhongge gi na’an i una ha’ na Lahin Yu’us.