Celebrating Christmas in the Community
The significance of christmas in rural Guatemala.
December 15, 2017 - Guatemala
Christmas is a big festival of joy and happiness. People enjoy the Christmas holidays all over the world with certain spiritual traditions and customs, mostly within the family. The NPH OneFamily program supports children who have been reintegrated with their families after receiving care from NPH. This effort ensures a long-term solution for children and families not widely offered in countries where NPH serves. This program offers extensive follow-up support focused on the wellbeing of the child, including a connection to the broader NPH family for life.
In a small village in the deep countryside of Petén there is a community called “El Chal, Las Mojarras” where five children who previously lived at NPH, have returned to live with their biological family through the NPH OneFamily program. These five siblings, Marisela, Marian, Marlene, Ryan and Marjorie, are happy to celebrate Christmas again with their family. Christmas time for the family means spending time together and like their grandmother said: “It is a time when we share traditions of the family and the community and when we can give love to feed our spirits.”
Christmas does not mean receiving gifts but more showing love and endearment. Marjorie said: “At Christmas time I really like that I can celebrate with all my neighbors and friends.” On December 24th, all families come to the church where they have evening mass and a special Christmas church service. Like in other countries as well, they sing Christmas songs and pray for the arrival of Jesus Christ. In the church there is a manger prepared showing the birth of baby Jesus in Bethlehem and the three wise men, Gaspar, Melchor and Balthazar. The father Joseph and the virgin mother Mary are brought to the manger. The days before, they have been passed around from house to house in the historical tradition called “Los posadas” (The Inns). The Inns start on December 16th and end on Christmas Day in the community church. During those days, the figures of Joseph and Mary are passed from family to family as a symbol of the arrival of Jesus.
Later on Christmas Day, they all meet up in the community house where they enjoy the lovely cooked Christmas dinner together, which is prepared by the elders of the church. The traditional Christmas dinner comes with a tasty soup, tamales, special Christmas bread (similar to gingerbread) and cacao to drink.
Marisela quoted: “I love to make the tamales for the big dinner because it makes me happy to see the people eating them.” During dinner time the grandfathers and grandmothers take advantage of telling the younger ones helpful advice and remember stories of the past of the community. The son Ryan commented: “I love to decorate the Christmas tree and to place the star on top of the tree”. It is typical in the community to use natural resources like apples and pinecones to decorate the tree but also tinsel is used to make it look Christmassy.