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Christmas in Haiti


Herald Angel SM84 by Winston Cajuste

With fireworks, favorite foods, and gift-giving, Christmas – or Nwel in Creole – is a great celebration in Haiti.  Preparations begin several days ahead of December 25th.  Decorating tends to be limited, but often includes a tropical Christmas trees which are harvested in the mountains and hauled down to be sold in the markets. Whether destined for a church or prosperous private home, the whole tree is festively trimmed with lights and ornaments while in more humble dwellings, only branches are used.

Music is a big part of the Haitian Christmas tradition.  There are live performances in the cities as well as television shows which feature celebrities of every stripe singing and dancing to familiar holiday tunes.  (Click here for a sample selection.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TFeHnxZwTQ  If you look carefully, you can see a Three Kings

Nadege Balan with her daughter wearing her new fancy sunglasses.

sculpture in the background!) The tunes have a clear

Caribbean beat with steel drums, bongos, marimbas, and horns as featured instruments.

On Christmas Eve, friends and families gather for merry-making.  A special meal is prepared that may include turkey,

ham, and/or shrimp, along with pate,

rice, beans and fried plantains.  Pineapple upside down cake is often the dessert of choice, and anisette is poured as liquid accompaniment.  Because Haiti is largely a Catholic country, Midnight Mass is very well attended, though it is not

Btutus Wiseton’s young son in his red school bus shirt with super powers.

unusual for serious partying to commence soon after the last “amen” and continue on through the night. This is also the time for gifts to be exchanged if the family can afford to do so.  Fireworks, usually homemade, light the dark Caribbean skies and there is dancing and singing in clubs and in the streets.

Children from even the most humble homes fill their shoes with straw and set them either by the tree, or out by the front door in anticipation of the arrival of Santa Claus, or as he is known in Haiti, “Tonton Nwel”. Late on Christmas Eve, Santa slips in undetected to give gifts great and small and vanish again without a trace. In Haiti, as around the world, the magic of Christmas lives.

Contributed by Linda for Beyond Borders/It’s Cactus

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