Christmas greetings from Guyana!
During the final week of October I hosted a campfire for the youth of the church. Halfway through the evening some of them began dancing around the fire and singing Christmas carols. I will never forget how shocked I was! I simply could not believe what I was hearing! Singing carols in October? You’ve got to be kidding me! Looking back at that night, I now realize how that was my first taste of Guyanese Christmas excitement. And needless to say, the enthusiasm expressed that October night has continued to increase leading up to the Holiday celebration.
One of the first things I noticed about the Christmas Season in Guyana (besides the fact that it starts so early!) is what people do with their homes. Specifically, I have learned about the Guyanese tradition of “breaking-up” the house during the months of November and December. In order to properly “break-up” one’s home, people take their rugs outside, put their tables and chairs in the yard, and oftentimes throw away old pots and pans. Basically, everyone turns their homes upside-down and inside-out. They make a total mess as everything is out of order and out of place. And because of all this “breaking up”, the town looks like a total wreck! (It looks like everyone’s been hosting college parties for about a month straight!)
As Christmas draws closer, I have noticed how people stop “breaking up” and begin putting their homes “back together”. The dirty rugs are scrubbed, the dusty furniture is polished, and the old furnishings are replaced with the new. Everything that was put out of the house it gradually cleaned and placed back within. It is quite a sight! Many Guyanese feel the Holiday should be spent with the house completely redone and made-over, so most things are all put back into order and in their rightful places by Christmas morning. (The town will start to look normal again!) The tradition of “breaking up” and putting back together is one of the most unique Christmas traditions I have ever come across.
In terms of my own experience, the Guyanese Christmas Season has already been a most wonderful occasion. For instance, this past week our church sponsored a dinner for about 140 needy children in the New Amsterdam area, and because it is tradition for the minister to be Santa, I was asked to dress up as jolly-old Saint Nick and hand out gifts. What an experience! (Don’t worry - the church members took plenty of pictures – I’ll be sure to share them with you!) I had a great time dancing around, throwing kids on my lap, and yelling “Ho! Ho! Ho!” but I must say, wearing a Santa outfit in 90-degree heat is not something I would recommend. (It is probably the closest I have ever come to experiencing the fires of Hell!) I had a great time, but it was refreshing to take off the layers of clothes and the pillows that were stuffed in my shirt.
I want to use this time to wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a blessed New Year. Although it will undoubtedly be difficult for me to experience Christmas morning without my parents, brother, and sister, I have been reminded that there is only one thing required to enjoy Christmas – and that is the gift of our Lord Jesus Christ. I know I will miss my Grandma’s food and I will especially miss the hugs and kisses of my friends and family, but the presence of our Lord will be with me – and that is all I need. This will be a Christmas like no other, but I know that all will go well.
I love you all very much and will hold you in my heart throughout the Holiday.
With peace, love, and Holiday blessings,