The old song is true when it says, “There’s no place like home for the holidays.” Missionaries aren’t usually in their own culture to celebrate these special days. It can be lonely, but being in another culture at Christmastime also gives them the opportunity to experience new traditions. These traditions can often enhance the celebration of Christ’s birth.
Here is some information about the Christmas traditions where our teams are serving.
Noël in France
Frank and Karen Mills, who recently returned from France, tell of the tradition of Noël in France. While the Christmas trees are like the ones in the USA, the lights all blink!
Karen says, “Probably one of my favorite Christmas traditions is provencal. It is the story of the Santons: Post French Revolution, the church became illegal. People were taught to worship at the Temple of Reason. Churches were transformed into temples of Reason. So, the practicing Catholics at the time in Provence created little figurines that represented the characters of the villages in which they lived. The small village is assembled using these clay figurines (some painted, some not). Even the Holy Family is settled into their stable… all but the baby Jesus. He appears on Christmas Eve! Frank and I have a miniature collection of the French village and the various people who live there: shepherds and sheep, butchers, bakers, priests, lavender farmers, olive farmers, and Mary and Joseph and the three kings. Baby Jesus arrives on Christmas Eve!”
(Photo: Etienne Valois)
Navidad in Mexico
When the Poulette family was in Mexico, they found out that many people participate in posadas, a series of nine parties on the evenings of December 16-24 in which participants go from house to house, remembering the story of Mary and Joseph seeking shelter during the first Christmas season. The piñata is also common in many Christmas parties. The Christmas piñata looks like a star with 7 points, representing the seven deadly sins. Families gather together to eat tamales and a big feast on Christmas Eve, and many Christians get together as the family of God to pray and remember God’s gift to mankind.
Crăciun in Romania
Christmas carols are very popular in Romania. Children will sing carols and dance on Christmas Eve, and they often receive candy, fruit, and cakes called ‘cozonaci’ in return. Adults go carol singing on Christmas Day evening and night. Drumming bands of up to 50 or 60 men will go around and play in the streets to celebrate the season of Christmas.
Різдво in Ukraine
Christmas in Ukraine is celebrated the 7th of January, and it is celebrated by feasting and singing. The Christmas carol “Carol of the Bells” comes from a Ukrainian carol called “Shchedryk.”
Don’t forget to include prayer for YMI’s missionaries in your Christmas holiday. Although they enjoy the traditions of their new cultures, it is important to know that they are not forgotten back at home.