The Season of Remembering Godchildren
Published on December 18-19, 2010 in the Parish Bulletin of Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
I was chatting online with my parents the other day when my Mom gently reminded me, “E mu la cacaliñguan reng inaanac mu qñg Pascu!—Don’t forget your godchildren this Christmas!” That reminder might sound strange to anyone who didn’t grow up in a Filipino household. After all, what could godparenting have anything to do with Christmas?
Yet, back home, Christmas is the time of year when children would visit their godparents (in Tagalog, their ninong and ninang) to kiss their hand (a sign of respect to our elders called mano) and, in return, the godparents would hand them a gift (called an aguinaldo). This is serious business in the Philippines. I know of cousins who had marked the year when their godparent forgot to give them an aguinaldo and, years later, demanded that their ninong make up for the “lost Christmas.” But those instances are quite rare, especially when we have our mothers reminding us of our Christmas obligation to our godchildren (in Tagalog, inaanak). More often than not, ninongs also see their inaanak on birthdays and other special occasions. A lot of them are quite involved in their lives; I know of some in my family who have gone so far as to pay for the tuition (for Catholic school) of their inaanak, when the parents themselves were not able to afford it.
Although this custom has seen some excesses in recent years (for example, parents getting a set of 12 godfathers and 12 godmothers for their infant’s baptism, or, as we would joke back home, more than enough to pay for that child’s college), I also see how it makes sense in the context of our Catholic Faith. As we celebrate the birth of the Christ-child, it is good for us to remember those children whose re-birth in Christ we have witnessed. This is the season when we give thanks to God for the best gift that this weary world has ever received from on high: the gift of the Savior. And, in the spirit of that great gift-giving, we who are godparents should be more than generous in handing over to our godchildren the best gift that we ourselves have received: our Catholic Faith.
This season beckons us with the same gentle reminder that I received from my Mom: “Don’t forget your godchildren this Christmas!” This is the best time to tell them of the reason why we live in hope and give glory to God in the highest: the Christ in Christmas. Otherwise, our godchildren could come and demand that we make up for a “lost Christmas.” And, chances are, they would come with their reproach at the official end of the Christmas season: the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.