**Apologises, I wrote this before Christmas but didn’t get round to posting it and I don't want you to miss out!**

 

With Christmas only a few days away, the fun (and sometimes slightly stressful) last minute shopping and wrapping of presents is being done. I feel like I’ve got a nice selection of goodies to give away, but I’ve totally flaked when it comes to Christmas Cards. Usually I make my own, but this year, with so much going on, I’ve not even thought about it. So, to make up for it, here is my christmas card to you all… Merry Christmas! 

One year I would really love to spend Christmas in another country, to be part of someone else’s family and experience their Christmas traditions. Germany would be a good one - great food, great people, great Christmas markets and hopefully some snow! Growing up in Christian household full of tradition and family time, I certainly have a fixed view on what Christmas is, or should be about. Snow is a bonus of course, but I just can’t imagine being in a country, celebrating Christmas, with the sun shining outside, dressed in shorts and t-shirt. That, to me, would not feel right. But for those who do live in hot, sunny countries, I’m sure Christmas is just as magical and family orientated as it is for me. 

This got me thinking about how some of our producers around the world will be celebrating their Christmas….

 

In Mexico, Christmas is celebrated from December 12th to January 6th. Children perform the ‘Posada’ processions which means ‘Inn or Lodging’ telling the story of Mary and Joseph looking for somewhere to stay. People’s houses are decorated on the outside with evergreens, moss and paper lanterns. Children are given candles and clay figures of Mary, Joseph and the donkey. They sing a song outside people’s houses but are told there is no room. Eventually they are welcomed into someone’s house to say prayers, and have a party with food, games and fireworks. On Christmas eve the final Posada takes place and the baby jesus is put in the manager and families then go to midnight church services, after which are more fireworks. 

In Palestine, Christmas is very important as Bethlehem was the place where Jesus was born. On Christmas Eve there is a parade through the town with bagpipes (our influence!), with people dressed up as Santa Claus giving out sweets. The main streets are decorated with lights. There is also a church service ‘Mass of the Nativity’ held in the Church of the Nativity - a tiny church built over the place where Jesus is thought to have been born. People sing Christmas Carols outside. 

In The Philippines, people attend early morning masses, the last being on Christmas day. As most Filipinos are Christian, it is the most important holiday and has a mixture of USA/UK and Filipino traditions such as Santa Claus, Christmas trees, cards and carols! They have their own traditional decoration called a ‘parol’ which is a bamboo pole with a lighted star lantern. On Christmas eve, people go to church for mass followed by a midnight feast called Noche Buena (an open house style celebration with friends, family and neighbours). 

South Africa also has a number of our own traditions - christmas fir trees, leaving stockings out for Santa on Christmas Eve and turkey (or duck), mince pies and Christmas Pudding on Christmas day! In contrast to us, South African’s celebrate Christmas during their summer season so often eat outside or have a barbecue!

 

One of our volunteers, David, spent a year in Malawi with a family who make the woven baskets and hats we sell (not yet online). This was David’s Christmas experience in Malawi….

 

At Christmas we relish the tradition of our culture and our family. In Malawi there were no decorations, no mulled wine, no evening sessions of baking spicy biscuits while enjoying a wee dram. I pined for my Christmas that was thousands of miles away. My first thought was to try and bring the British Christmas to Malawi, but soon realised that so much of what makes my Christmas’ back home are not transportable. So instead of forcing the issue I decided to attempt a marriage of a British and Malawian Christmas. 

I was to spend Christmas in my best friend Auden’s rural village. In Malawi Christmas means chicken, rice, Fanta orange, a new outfit and lots of singing and dancing. To this I wanted to add decorations, presents and Father Christmas. Lots of generous friends and family from the UK provided the gifts and Auden and I spent hours wrapping them in cheap Christmas paper. The day before we left for the village we headed into town to buy all the food and came back laden. It was decided that Auden would travel on our motorbike with all the packages and I would go on the local transport with the food.

By the time I entered the village it was so hot and buzzing with excitement. After a hearty meal we sat around the charcoal burner and made origami decorations. When we went outside to hang them on the hut Auden told me that in Malawi kids call the stars ‘Christmas’. I looked up and in a village with no electricity and therefore zero light pollution the night sky is epic. Shooting stars are everywhere and galaxy smudges are easily visible. This was more spectacular than any city Christmas lights.

Everyone wakes up early in the village, but unlike the UK where it is a mad rush to open presents, here daily tasks need to be done. I helped in collecting water and sweeping the courtyard before overseeing the rice pudding we were cooking for breakfast. Straight after breakfast we got onto lunch prep and this communal event turned into a feast of 5 spit roasted chickens.

After lunch and as the hot afternoon drew in Auden sneaked into the house for our big surprise. A few minutes later he reappeared as Father Christmas! This is not a figure commonly recognised in Malawi and the dogs barked and stalked him like a hyena. Once everyone was over the shock it was present time! In true Malawian style they danced and sang as Father Christmas handed out the presents. For the rest of the afternoon the singing and dancing continued and by evening we were all exhausted.

This Christmas I am back in the UK and missing my Malawian Christmas. I skyped Auden in the village on Christmas Day and was happy to hear that this year they were roasting a pig. Just two years before we bought his father two pigs and today they have 22 (well 21 now). He said that my peculiar British customs have now been adopted and are now part of their family traditions. I love that Auden’s first child, who was born this year, will accept them as his own.”

 

Merry Christmas everyone!