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Published: January 17th 2007
Krismas long Wes Ambrym
This wasn’t my first Christmas abroad but it certainly was the first that lacked every aspect of Christmas I am familiar with. It lacked that commercialized build up that strikes just after Thanksgiving. The never ending holiday parties, baking cookies, Christmas music and cards in the mail. And most of all, all that shopping; for food and gifts, Christmas pressies and that special holiday outfit.
For the most part, I’m really not complaining, I don’t like all that commercialization anyways but it’s the holiday spirit that I missed the most. I am in a (very) Christian country so don’t get me wrong, they celebrate here, in fact they have quite the holiday spirit but still it couldn’t feel less like Christmas to me.
For one, it’s summer so no hopes of a white Christmas. And for another, well the idea of Christmas is just different, so let me describe for you Christmas on Ambrym.
The days leading up to Christmas the pikininis (children) decorate the village nakamal (meeting house) with paper chains and ( thanks to me teaching them as well as my supply of newspapers to cut) snowflakes. They carry in large leaves (size of palms) and flowers to add to the decorating. Yes, getting the nakamal ready for what you would ask?- Well, I did at least. “Yumi kakae wanem long krismas” “Bred.”
Yes, that’s it. Their cookies or turkey of whatever it is that makes you look forward to eating at Christmas is bread.
The night before Christmas eve, the village stayed up till 1 AM baking bread in the ground so that the next morning we could all eat bread (oh, but with coconut jam which tastes like caramel!) Then they all go to church, come back and bake more bread and Christmas day we eat more bread and go back to church.
I gave my village a huge sack of rice for Christmas and one of my families gave me a chicken. I named her Mrs. Robinson. I decided if I get a rooster next, I’ll name him Mr. Bojangles.
Some other villages continue to drink too much “yeast” (homebrew) and this whole week there are football (soccer) tournaments going on down at Craig Cove. So the festivities continue. Saturday night the string band in my village is competing in a string band contest. I don’t understand it completely, because to me they all sound the same.
So I asked my sister, “So what do you do for New Year’s?” She said, “Go to church.”
As much as I am truly enjoying this experience, next year I’ve decided to go to Australia (and Bali and Thailand).
I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and Happy New Year.
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