Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Christmas in PNG

In my previous post I mentioned that Christmas is low key in PNG.  I got a few questions about it, so here are some more thoughts.

Reasons that Christmas is more low key.
1) Christams is seen as a religious holiday, not a cultural event.  Easter is just a big of an event or perhaps bigger.  Both may include a Bible Camp.  The equivalent of a synod will get together and have three days of Bible Study together.  A guest preacher (such as SFS faculty members) comes and gives around 6 hours of Bible study/ talks over a three day period.  There will be singing and dancing involved, but that is part of every church gathering, not especially tied to Christmas or Easter.

2)  Cultural history is tied to other events.  Christianity is quite new in PNG - 50 to 100 years in most areas.  This means community customs and celebrations have been tied to other events.  For many of us in America, Christmas has ties to our family history and may show marks of the "old country" our family came from.  In PNG your home town or "as ples" is your "old country".  So, even if you have moved off to the city to work, you are likely back home in your village for Christmas.

3)  Less distinct seasons.  Here in the tropics you have rainy season or dry season, but the timing of this  varies from location to location.  So, there is not the distinct visuals of North America and Europe.  Christmas is not tied to snow or even cooler weather.  Easter is not tied to Spring.  This not only affects the visuals but also the food available.  The main parts of your feast meal, such as pig and potatoes, will be the same whenever you feast.  Though one time you might have pineapple and another time you may have papaya. However, I don't hear talk of particular Christmas food.

4)  Lack of cash.  Many of our traditions, such as special Christmas decorations require some cash.  When you are a subsistence farmer, you decorate with flowers etc. year round.  Again, less special signs of Christmas.  I have heard that the Christmas pageant may be quite elaborately decorated, such a stable built and some sort of lights to stand in for the star.  The star is supposed to move across set to help guide the wise men.

5) life of a farmer.  Most people in PNg grow their own crops.  So, while you may take a few days off, you have to keep on working to have food ready.  Even our students that go home do a lot of work in their parents' garden or farm. Farming is year round here, with crops being planted and harvested on a regular basis.

In Lae, the bigger city in my area, I did some some decorations.  The stores would have a few strings of lights up.  I saw a few plastic Christmas tress.  It is a quiet time for many of the churches in the city, as many people travel to their home town for Christmas.

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