Pray For a Safe Christmas and Holiday In Haiti
A few weeks ago, Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti’s southern shore with winds of 145 miles per hour. The death toll has been estimated to be close to 400. But many more are in extreme need of assistance. The area hit hardest has an estimated population of 1.3 million people, and 60-70 percent of these people live in extreme poverty levels. The storm wiped out their communities’ crops, infrastructure, and schools. In the weeks that have passed since the devastating storm, recovery efforts have continued without pause. Three days of mourning were declared by interim President Jocelerme Privert in October, though the country is nowhere near fully healing. But as we move closer into the Christmas season, there is a sense of hope and unity arising amongst the people.
Here in the streets, volunteers have been welcomed by neighboring families as they gather to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Surviving Haitians, banning together like families, are beginning to prepare their beloved traditions as best they can to restore a sense of normalcy for the children and provide hope for the future.
Everyone is working together to keep their yearly festivities alive. They are starting to search for pine trees, which are traditionally cut and embellished with ornaments, much like the Christmas trees we know here in the United States. Traditionally, some Haitian families add a beautiful Nativity scene at the bottom of the tree. The space we would leave for toys is not needed, as they do it differently. Instead they clean up their shoes, fill them with straw, and then place them on their porch. That night they are visited by ‘Tonton Nwel,’ whom we know as Santa Claus. He then takes the straw for his reindeer and leaves presents behind in exchange. In years before, the people of Haiti usually make the trip up the mountain to select a tree with their families. This year is different. Instead, children are collecting branches from the wood and arranging them to mimic a tree.
On a normal Christmas Eve, children would be celebrating in the streets all night, playing games like ‘wosle’ and lighting sparklers called ‘pi detwal’. Usually, the homes are divinely lit up all night by luminous decorations like ‘fanal’ lanterns. These are hand-crafted paper boxes intricately cut into designs with tissue paper. The Haitian people love to display these as a beautiful way to share the Christmas spirit with their neighbors. Most people attend Mass at Midnight on Christmas Eve, and the festivies sometimes continue after the ceremony. Everyone gathers at these all-night parties called ‘Reveyons.’ They celebrate from mass till dawn, when they eat ‘Reveillon.’ A French term for “to wake up,” this is a traditionally huge breakfast-style meal. Also served is ‘Krema,’ a drink similar to eggnog made with local rum, coconut milk, nutmeg, and vanilla. But there will not be many ‘reveyons’ this year. Instead, holiday charity events are being held to give back to Haiti in their time of need.
There is no doubt that this Christmas will be different for so many families this year. While we don’t expect to see all of these traditions return this year, we can carry their importance with us in our hearts as we rebuild Haiti’s future. We ask that you join all of us at The Brian Young Foundation in praying that Haiti will have a safe holiday and a prosperous Christmas. We will continue to work towards a better life for their children, especially those orphaned by these tragic natural disasters. With your support, our efforts, and God’s will, they will feel the spirit of Christmas once again.