Have you ever wondered how Haitians celebrate Christmas? Well... me, too. As I have mentioned in an earlier post, for a German girl having lived most of her life in European environments it is almost impossible to get into a Christmas mood with this weather. 30°C and sunshine is summer weather as best as it can get in Northeast Germany throughout June, July and August.
Nevertheless, I tried as best as I can to get some Christmassy feelings. I have crafted an Advent calendar, a German tradition, for my daughter Antonia as you cannot buy any here in Haiti and I also like the homemade touch of Christmas decoration. Moreover, we have baked some "Weihnachtsplätzchen" (Christmas cookies), another German Christmas custom that some Germans seem to take for a sport (just joking) since they are baking so many different kinds. We created "Engelsaugen" (angel's eyes) and "Heidesand mit Meersalz" (heath sand with sea salt, literally translated). In our apartment we have a very old (and not well isolated) gas stove and with the heat outside and the heat of the stove we were sweating a lot.
Apart from my very own efforts people in Haiti try their best to decorate public spaces and their houses. Here is one example of decoration at our local supermarket:
As I was curious, I asked our cleaning ladies how they celebrate Christmas and how they decorate their house. Logically here in Haiti it depends on your finances. Most Haitians do not have the money to buy any Christmas presents, they rather buy some small gifts throughout the year when they have saved up a bit. Some of them, who can afford it, put up a Christmas tree. But it is not a Christmas tree as we know them (a pine tree, for instance). They use branches which they paint in a white or bright color and put these into a solid, decorated can. Here are some photos where they sell those "trees" next to the streets:
You can tell that I took the pictures during our daily traffic jam from or to school. I thought about getting one of those trees (as I spent a lot of time in the car and saw a lot of those trees) but then I recalled having heard about Haiti's big problem of deforestation causing soil erosion and indirectly poverty (this is a very insightful article here). To decorate their tree (if they can afford one) they take tree ornaments that are either made out of metal and painted or crafted out of paper forming small houses (see photos) and garlands:
Due to the tight budget most Haitians celebrate Christmas and New Year's rather "low-key like": they invite their family and stay at home. They also don't go out a lot due to security reasons. For the celebration of New Year's Eve they often cook for their family a Haitian dish called Soup joumou, a soup that is based on pumkin with pieces of beef, potato, plaintain and other vegetables.
A couple of days ago (on my birthday by the way) Antonia and I were lucky to get invited to a special Christmas party. The wife of the German ambassador did not want to celebrate her birthday (on Christmas Day) but preferred to organize a Christmas party for 50 poor Haitian first graders. She rented a bouncy castle with a slide and catered lunch and cake for all of them. We even met the German Santa Claus:
At the end of the party each child (watching curiously Santa with big eyes) received a small present and you cannot imagine what happened! They treasured the little present so much and did not even dare to open it! Think about our "Western" kids who would have ripped open the wrapping within seconds. I also had the chance to meet Dr. Barbara Höfler (on the very left-hand side next to Santa), a German retired doctor who is helping these kids as much as she can. If you'd like to help her good cause visit the webpage of her association called Lespwa ("hope" in Creole). I can only confirm that this is a good and important project and that all the given money will reach the right person. I'll definitely will write a post soon about charity, the influence of the NGOs, corrupted money and Haiti.
One scandal of the Blue Helmets (UN), for example, was broadcasted in the German Auslandsjournal just my birthday. A very sad and delicate topic that was addressed by the journalists (6 minutes depicting the unfairness of poverty and its exploitation).
To this end, I am wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2016! I hope to see you all next year. We are off to France for two weeks to meet and eat with my family-in-law and our dear friends. We cannot wait...
Some updates about our pre-Christmas time of this year 2016: This year we were courageous enough to bake "Weihnachtsplätzchen" again but we tried some different kinds :-). My dear friend On left Haiti with her husband and son as well as Dr. Höfler who had to go back to Germany because of some health problems. Again we are going back this year to France to spend the holidays with our family and friends. Merry Christmas to you all and a happy New Year!
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