Friday, December 12, 2014
“Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.” ― Steve Maraboli
The Christmas story is the same (see picture at the right) wherever you are but the celebration of it is quite different. Christmas is so very different here from everything we were so used to back in the States. Because there is no television, there are no Christmas specials to watch. There are no decorations in public places, no visible Christmas trees, no nativity scenes, no candy canes, and Santas ringing bells for money to drop in a pot. In fact, there is no Santa Claus at all, no Saint Nick, no Father Christmas, and no elves or sleighs, or reindeer. No Christmas sales and no one going into debt to give children toys and games. There are no Christmas parties, no decorated homes (less than 4% even have electricity), no Christmas music being played in the stores or at the market. There are a couple of small shops where you can buy a very small artificial tree that they keep for the missionaries. You would think that Christmas wouldn’t be grand or special or exciting for the children—especially since there is no gift giving to mark the special day. Yet it is special and very much so for the children. For the Methodists at least, and most other denominations, Christmas here is a church event that starts the day before. There is a pre-Christmas day service at almost every church. Children get special treatment as they embody the peace and love that is to come. Then there are Christmas day services at every single church but with no special instruments, Christmas cantatas, or performances of Handel’s “Messiah,” but celebrations of the children and the hope they bring. What there are, are thousands of individual Christians who gather together in their churches to celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace and more importantly, the hope that comes with the knowledge that He was born and it was special. The day after Christmas, there are ecumenical services where several churches of different denominations will gather with choirs for several hours of singing with just a little preaching. No Christmas cards, no groups singing carols, no candles in the window—and certainly no snow. Other than the church services which are not jammed as we have virtually no twofers here (folks who only go to church on Christmas and Easter). Christmas is also not the biggest Christian celebration here, it ranks third to Easter and then Pentecost. We will have a small tree in our house and if we are lucky a ham, but most probably chicken. We will still be happy to be together and will say, “God bless us every one,” after we watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” for the umpteenth time.