13 Dec Christmas Around the World
This month, we reached out to two of Legacy’s global mission partners to see how they celebrate Christ’s birth. Their traditions are sometimes different from what is common in the United States.
How do you celebrate Christmas in your location?
Africa: We celebrate Christmas as a family in much the same way as many families in America would, though we also try to have an emphasis on giving to a need in the world as a family. Last year, we gave toward Syrian refugees; this year, we will give toward supporting the hungry in Yemen.
India: We celebrate Christmas in Damoh with lots of activities. There are different programs organized for Christmas celebrations like a community picnic, Christmas fair, special Christmas programs of senior citizens, youth, women, and a very big program of Sunday School Children where children present a different program and gifts are distributed. We also celebrate a special program for non-believers where people of other religions are invited, and then present songs and a special message of Christmas to them. There is a television program telecasted on the eve of Christmas on an international television network.
Are there any differences or similarities to how people celebrate in the U.S.?
Africa: At the little church we attend there is a Christmas eve “vigil” that we often do not attend, but on Christmas day there is a worship service followed by a big common meal where the community is invited to attend. The local government and Muslim groups always send some representatives. We always attend this and enjoy the common meal. One cool tradition the Christian groups near us do (though not the Muslim group we are reaching out to) is to build a little house or stable out of clay in front of their house (1-2 feet tall). It’s sort of a manger scene with no people. It is saying something like, “we are ready to receive Jesus here.”
India: The structure of programs is almost the same I believe. But in our area, many programs are aimed to promote the Good News of His birth among non-Christians.
What challenges do you face celebrating Christmas?
Africa: The Muslim culture around us does not celebrate Christmas, and there is no seasonal change (cold weather, snow, etc.) so it can easily feel like any other day. It takes creativity and intention to mark the day as special. Whereas in America, everything is screaming at you that it is Christmas.
India: In some areas where extremists are very much active, they try to disturb the festivities. In some places, there have been oppositions, protests and even persecution has been done to the Christians.
How do you incorporate any local cultural traditions into your celebrations?
Africa: One local custom we love is that Muslims, on their holidays, send meat or food around to neighbors so that they can join in the celebration even if they don’t have the means. We like to do this with our neighbors, whether it is sharing honey from our farm or giving away our extra male rabbits so that our Muslim neighbors can share in our feast/celebration.
India: India is very rich in festival culture. We incorporate some of the cultural traditions in our celebrations like the presentation of Christmas songs in the regional languages of people. We also have Indian dancing to Christmas songs and presenting flowers to non-Christian leaders and people who come to attend Christmas worship service.
What serving opportunities are in your community to share Jesus with others?
Africa: Christmas coincides with the end of Harvest and the beginning of the dry season where people finally have more time for social activities. It is usually about this time that we begin most of our Bible storying groups.
India: There are many opportunities that we take to share Jesus during the season like a special Christmas program for non-Christians, blanket and food distribution to the poor and needy, and telling them that we are helping because a Saviour was born to take away the sins of all human and we are celebrating His birth.
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)
About the missionaries who contributed to this article:
Africa: Brian Hauser (and family) Usually we are located in Burkina Faso and our family reaches out to a Muslim people group through Chronological Bible storying and holistic development. This year, due to some security concerns, we are in Ivory Coast for the meantime, planning to return to Burkina in the New Year.
India: Ajai Lall (and family) My wife Indu and I founded Central India Christian Mission (CICM) 35 years ago and now we have close to 3000 churches. We have Bible Colleges, a Nursing College, Children’s Homes, and Free Tuition Centres. We are based in Damoh which is in the centre of India. We have 4 children and 7 grandchildren.