Christmas in the village

We were naughty and skipped the Christmas Eve service. It started late in the evening when all the kids should have been going to bed, and… well,…, um… we went to the service the next morning.

First of all, there was Sunday School. Sunday School is a whole topic all of its own, so suffice it to say I found it strange to have Sunday School on Christmas morning seeing as how it’s not Sunday. It did start an hour later than the usual time.

All the kids were decked out in their Christmas finery. My Cameroonian friend Judith said it is all important to get a new dress at Christmas. People may or may not know the holiday is about Jesus’ birthday, but everyone knows you get a new dress at Christmastime. This was in evidence in church Christmas morning as the crowd of kids was much larger than normal and everyone was looking freshly scrubbed, fully clothed, and neatly pressed with no rips or stains.

Church was packed out for the first time in a long time. One of the draws of the Christmas day service is that the children are forced to recite a memory verse. After each child’s offering, there is a spontaneous song and the congregation may dance forward and drop something in the offering plate as a show of appreciation for the child. (How on earth people managed to amass enough change to put some in for every child is a mystery to me.) Every child introduced themself, giving name, grade (class/form), and school, then proceeded to race through their verse. Often the introduction was longer than the verse itself, and all of it was usually just a notch above inaudible and not terribly well enunciated. All of the little children, and some of the bigger ones, beat time on their chest as they spoke. I found this terribly distracting as I kept thinking “why are they whacking themselves!?” but I suppose it helped keep them from going too fast. My students recited verses in Oroko from the Christmas story. They were a big hit with the villagers. Kenneth was overwhelmed with the task of learning a bunch of mumbo-jumbo syllables by heart and was allowed to default to English but everyone was proud of him because last year he was too scared to do anything at all.

Speaking of the Christmas story in Oroko, after undergoing more revisions and consultant checks, a new edition was available just in time for Christmas. Mr Mosongo stood up to make an announcement about it, giving it a sound endorsement, including inciting some rivalry by mentioning it had sold very well at the Presbyterian church the previous Sunday. It was very exciting to see that people were so eager to get copies that a few handed over their money before Mr Mosongo was even finished with his announcement. The pastor had to yell at them to wait till the service was over.

Our sad little English Choir was gave a song offering of “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night” (which felt awfully funny in the morning, but whatever. I suppose we should have gone to the Christmas Eve service if we wanted to do that one right). Pastor helpfully suggested we start with the chorus on the former, and started the latter in a woefully bad key. Such is the joy of English Choir.

The children's group called 3H (Head, Hands, Heart) did a skit for Christmas which involved a lightning-fast first half of the Christmas story, then a fairly realistic portrayal of Mary giving birth to a brass bell which Joseph quickly cast about for shortly before the birth.

The girls did a great job of decorating the church, though. After having seen the Friesens’ decorations, the pastor asked that the girls give the church the special treatment for Christmas. I was adamantly opposed to hanging snowflakes in a church in Africa, but I capitulated when Lisa or one of the kids suggested we do them in Cameroonian colours (red, yellow, and green) and call them “pretty paper decorations” instead of “snowflakes.” In the end, I escaped involvement of any kind — in busyness before Christmas I was unavailable to help with the task. Friesens cut and hung the “pretty paper decorations” and Scott kids added some lovely silk flowers (real ones would wilt too quickly in the heat) and the youth group wove archways of palm leaves around the doors.

It was a very different Christmas.

“Happy Christmas!”

“Happy, Happy!”


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