Christmas Around the World

Christmas Around the World

By: Mary Ann Strombitski and Phillip Roth   |   Posted: December 19, 2002

Children Show Diversity in the Ways They Mark the Holiday
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO., Dec. 19, 2002 - When Manuela Santana sits down for her Christmas dinner this year, it won't be the usual roast duck, turkey or ham to which most Americans are accustomed. Instead, the 11-year-old girl will feast on rice and pigeon peas, a dish native to her home in the Dominican Republic.

Moro de guandules, as the meal is called, is just one example of the rich diversity with which children around the world celebrate the Christmas season, said Mark Hanlon, Vice President of Sponsor and Donor Ministry for Compassion International. "From sweet breads and French toast in Brazil to milk and bread in Bolivia, children often find the most creative ways to celebrate the birth of Christ," Hanlon said. Compassion works to release children from poverty in more than 20 nations.

"In El Salvador, Compassion-sponsored children will enjoy a tasty plate of turkey, a very unusual food for them," Hanlon said. "But the children never eat all the food; they always take some of the dinner home to share with their families."

While American children sit around the Christmas tree and play with their new toys, children from the most impoverished nations in the world frequently find other ways to have a good time.

In Guatemala, there are parades, fireworks and dancing. Bolivia's children will often attend church services and then play soccer or volleyball. In Thailand, Christmas parties are held in the traditional Thai "Lanna" style - which literally means land of a million rice fields, the name of the ancient kingdom that once ruled that part of the country. Participants come wearing native dress and parents will bring food to sell.

The longest Christmas celebrations are marked by children in the Philippines, where a custom called monito-monita begins the first week of November. As part of the festivities, children randomly pick names and anonymously give gifts to each other each week. The first week is for gifts that are round, the second for something that is sweet, the third for something that is long, continuing with a new gift category each week until Christmas.

Compassion is dedicated to the long-term holistic development of children living in poverty. The organization works with more than 65 denominations and scores of indigenous church partners in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and with churches and youth workers in the United States. Since 1952, Compassion has touched the lives of more than a million children.