TRADITIONS OF ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS IN HAITI

Fr. Carl McCarthy
I find it interesting to ask others what customs and traditions that they have in celebrating Advent and Christmas in their homes.So considering our relationship with our Twinning Parish St. Joseph in Lalomas, Haiti, I reached out to Alcionat Garry Andruis. I just call him Garry. Garry is from Lalomas, but lives with his sister in Port-au-Prince Haiti. Garry also serves as our interpreter when our missionaries go visit. Moreover, our parish is sponsoring Garry’s education as he is studying to be a doctor, with the hope of returning to Lalomas and providing medicine for the poorest of the poor in Haiti. Here is some of what Garry shared with me about his Advent and Christmas traditions. (Just a note: I am leaving much of the grammar as it was written, because it does show how hard he worked to provide this Advent/Christmas writing.)   ~Fr. Carl McCarthy


Since November all Haitian families look forward to see how they can get a good Christmas, because it is special time in the year where they are in obligation to share something with their kids, (buy clothes, toys, shoes and so on) and repaint their houses. So in this period a lot of people who don’t work move to a little business which requires a lot of people in the market, or open air marker. In the countryside people go to the market to sell their animals and crops for having money. In every radio station there are a lot of music of the circumstance are played until December 31. In Urban, at the beginning of December, people start looking for Christmas Trees. They might cut pine branches or go to the market and get trees brought from the mountains. The trees are decorated with bright ornaments. At the bottom of the tree is a large nativity scene. Sometimes the trees and scenes take up a lot of the living room! Churches and other organizations also have trees on display. Artificial tresses are also more common as they last longer! Either Catholic Church or protestant, they decorate the church. People also fix and redecorate their homes ready for Christmas. In Haiti Happy/Merry Christmas in Creole/Hatian is ‘Jwaye Nowe’. French is also commonly spoken in Haiti where it is ‘Joyeux Noël’. Happy/Merry Christmas in lots more languages. On Christmas Eve, children place their newly cleaned shoes, filled with straw under the tree on the porch. They hope that Santa (called ‘Tonton Nwèl’) will remove the straw and put presents in and around the shoes! Often, lots of houses in neighborhoods are open with all lights on until about 3.00am! Children are normally allowed to go out and often the parents don’t know where they are in the early morning – the older children are expected to look after the younger ones! And children of all ages are also allowed to drink ‘Anisette’, which is a slightly alcoholic drink that’s made by soaking ‘anise’ leaves (the spice where star anise comes from) in rum and sweetening it with sugar. For Haitian people the party starts December 24, they enjoy all activity. Some people go to a Midnight Mass church service, or you might go out carol singing. After the Mass, people come home and eat the main meal called ‘reveillon’ (it’s a French term meaning ‘to wake up’ and is what the main meal is also called in France). The meal normally starts in the early hours of Christmas morning and lasts until the dawn! Some go to Concert music, and others go to dance musical group like Tropicana. They enjoy their Christmas in dancing, and eating fried mea. Christmas Day is much quieter with people sleeping off the celebrations of the night before! However, there will be more eating and playing with the toys from Tonton Nwèl. In Haiti, Christmas traditions varies from cities to country sides. However, no matter where you are in in the country, you can easily observe happiness and joy. – Garry Andruis