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Christmas Traditions Know No Boundaries or Borders

Christmas traditions abound worldwide — that’s something I’ve definitely seen in my worldwide travels.

In Bolivia, where I worked with Food for the Hungry (FH) for a number of years, I quickly learned how to wrap packages with mylar wrapping paper. Bolivians just really seemed to like the tradition of shiny mylar! I also remember warmly the family that invited me to eat picana with them on Christmas Eve — a wonderful rich soup with chicken, beef, lamb, potatoes, carrots, and other ingredients. The food was good, to be sure, but what really mattered was the family who took me in, while my birth family was thousands of miles away.

But I was a city girl in Bolivia, and things are different in the rural communities that are far from glitzy markets and holiday Christmas ads on TV.

A Country Christmas

This artwork by a Bolivian child illustrates her idea of Christmas.

We asked some of the children in Bolivia, who are in programs made possible by your monthly sponsorships, what their Christmas traditions are.

boys playing soccer on rustic soccer field

Christmas Day in Bolivia is likely to include fútbol rather than football!

Marcelo remarked, “At Christmas, my mom, Rosalia, cooks buñuelos (fried pastry) with hot chocolate, which I love!” Yum!

Grober said, “At Christmas, I play soccer with other children. After that, we eat delicious fried chicken.” I bet Grober is a wonder at soccer!

Mariela commented, “At Christmas, my family and I take care of our goats.” Watching over a flock by night sounds like an appropriate way to welcome the news of Jesus!

Please Turn On the Lights

Across the Pacific Ocean, in November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan devastated parts of the Philippines. The record-breaking winds and storm surge waves nearly 20 feet high plowed down entire towns.

I visited the island of Samar just days after the storm hit, talking with families about their experiences.  There were many tears. But one of their biggest worries surprised me:

“Will we have electricity for Christmas?”

Filipinos love Christmas decorations. In fact if you check the tags on some of the decorations you’d buy at Hobby Lobby, you’ll see some from the Philippines. I’ve been told decorations go up on homes sometime in October, and maybe earlier.

The concept of light seemed very important to everyone — Christmas is about lighting the darkness.

I’m happy to report that the majority of the people I talked to, did indeed have electricity for Christmas.  I would suspect that many of the decorations looked like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, with a little string of lights a couple feet long.

But all it takes is one candle to chase away the darkness. And my Filipino hosts knew that.

However your family celebrates Christmas, on whichever continent, may your traditions continue to uplift you and draw you closer to Jesus Christ as we celebrate His birth.

Other recommended articles:

Three Tips for Sane Christmas Shopping

Take The Quiz: Which FH Catalog Gift Should You Give?