Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas in Haiti

Petit papa Noel
Quand tu descendras du ciel
Avec des jouets par milliers
N’oublie pas mon petit soulier
Mais avant de partir
Il faudra bien te couvrir
Dehors tu vas avoir si froid
C’est un peu a cause de moi

Little Santa Claus
When you come down from the sky With
thousands of toys
Don't forget my little stocking.
But before you leave
You should dress well
Outside you will be so cold
And it's kind of my fault.

I remember singing this French Christ-mas carol in Haiti as it was taught to us in school. I believe this was the school’s way of helping us join the rest of the world in this grand Christmas celebra-tion. I never quite understood what the words meant, but looking back now this song was clearly not written for a little girl who lived in a one room apartment with her three siblings and three other cousins. No, not for a girl in rural Haiti, for there was no Santa, no thousands of toys, no stockings and no winter.

The memory of this song jolted my thinking to ponder the question, “If we did not have all of the necessities that make Christmas, Christmas, how did we celebrate the birth of Jesus?” I have vivid memories: lots of fried everything to eat, pork, goat, chicken, plantains, rice and beans and, of course, lots of Haitian rum. Haitians make a drink called “Cremas”, a mixture of Haitian rum and lots of condensed milk and even the children were given a serving. Our Christmas gift would more than likely be a dress to wear for church or some other practical gift. It was a celebration that even non-believers joined.

I wonder if all of the “stuff” that makes us feel good about the Christmas season was removed, would our celebration of Christ’s birth be any different? I wonder, if receiving toys was not the focus of Christmas, would our children sing a new song for Christmas? There are millions of people all around the world, including many here in the US, celebrating Christmas this year with very little and yet, their celebration of Christ’s birth is just as meaningful. I recently listened to a song by Joy Williams “Hallelujah,” and in the song she describes the birth of Christ as a mystery. A mystery that God could be so small and his decrease in size was his way of reaching down to save the world.

I wonder if we can all join that symphony with the rest of the world whether you have much or very little and sing in celebration: Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Heaven’s love has reached down to save me through the birth of Jesus! So this Christmas, whichever way you celebrate, make sure it’s a celebration that shouts: Hallelujah, Praise the Lord, there’s hope! Jesus is here with us!