Every Compassion child learns about the love of Jesus — an especially timely lesson at Christmas. Learn more about how the holidays are celebrated in countries where we work around the world!
Ganna, the name Ethiopians give to Christmas, includes family attendance at church. The choir forms an outer circle as the congregation walks around the church three times with lighted candles. The congregation then creates an inner circle, and the priest serves Holy Communion in a center circle, which is considered the holiest place in the church.
Imagine celebrating Christmas Eve in Kenya, as children dressed in skirts made of leaves show up at your door to dance to Christmas songs. Residents offer the children a gift or money that is donated to their church on Christmas Day.
In Uganda, Christmas is celebrated with roasted goat, matoke (steamed green bananas), posho (a cornmeal dish), groundnut sauce and yams. One special dish that makes the celebration complete is luwombo, meat steamed in banana leaves.
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Nativity scenes (pesebres) are set up in homes and churches. Many of these are retablos, brightly painted plaster boxes with Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the wise men, shepherds and animals. Sometimes, tiny gifts and toys are included for the baby Jesus.
Similar to the U.S. version of secret Santa, Brazilians have a tradition called amigo secreto (secret friend) during December. Family and friends trade names at the beginning of the month, then exchange correspondence until Christmas. On Christmas, they reveal themselves to their secret friend when they give that person a gift.
Indians from the highlands and mountains don their finest clothing and ride llamas to their employers’ ranches. Children bring gifts and ask for blessings on their families and animals. The ranchers give gifts to employees and their families, and everyone celebrates over roast lamb and brown-sugar bread.
The streets come alive with drums and firecrackers as Posada processions take place for nine days before Christmas to dramatize Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging. On the last night, participants celebrate with punch, hot tamales and dancing. On Christmas Eve, a midnight Mass and a large dinner follow the Posada.
Christmas in Haiti is a major festival as residents and tourists celebrate with midnight suppers, concerts and church services. Christmas trees, lights and other decorations are abundant throughout the country, and family and friends mark the occasion with parties and get-togethers.
While Christmas is celebrated in December, gifts are not received until El Dia de Reyes (Wise Men Day) on Jan. 6. Children put their shoes by the window so the Magi will leave presents in the shoe or next to it. Sometimes, a child gets a new pair of shoes as a gift.
Throughout this predominately Catholic country, La Purisma (The Most Pure) is a Dec. 7 tradition that recognizes the Immaculate Conception. Many participants lose their voices going from house to house, offering prayers and songs for the Virgin Mary during La Noche de Griteria (The Night of Shouting).
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In Bangladesh, Christian village men cut down banana trees and plant them along the paths to church. They form an arch with the leaves, make holes in bamboo poles and fill them with oil, and tie them across the arches. When they light the oil, the path to the church is lit for all to see.
Decorations for Christmas celebrations include mango and banana trees, along with small, clay oil-burning lamps. Though the country’s primarily Hindu and Muslim population does not officially recognize Christmas, they view this as an appropriate time of year to give gifts, tips and baksheesh, which are contributions to the poor.
The Philippines has one of the longest Christmas celebrations in the world, beginning as early as September. Families celebrate with traditional delicacies such as bibingka, a rice flour and egg-based cake; puto bumbong, a purple sticky rice delicacy; salabat, a hot ginger tea; and tsokolate, a thick Spanish cocoa.
In fiscal year 2015, 81.8% of Compassion's expenses went directly to program activities helping children in our programs. This is one of the highest percentages for a child sponsorship organization.
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