Since I spent Christmas away from my village last year, I decided to remain in town this time around and see what Malagasy Christmas is all about. On Christmas Eve day, I did prepare American food with two other PCV's: my site mate Charity and our friend Brad. Despite my stove's gas tank running out a few days prior and me subsequently ruining 2 of my 3 cooking pots over my charcoal stove, Charity's stove and a little creativity still meant we were able to pull together a Christmas feast. We ended up with beef stew, stuffing, sweet potatoes, sauteed vegetables, flatbread with nutella and Dad's homemade apple butter, chocolate honey cookies, pumpkin-banana bread, rose wine, and probably several other things I'm forgetting. We actually had a fairly classy dining room table set-up with a tablecloth, napkins, confetti, candles, etc. thanks to care packages from home :)
Later that night Charity and I went to church at the Protestant church in our village. Christmas Eve in my village was actually not too different from how I spend the evening in the states. The youth were putting on a concert/show and then there was supposed to be a worship service. The whole thing began with the entire congregation singing, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" in Malagasy, which was absolutely beautiful. Already one of my favorite hymns, it felt especially meaningful to hear it sung by my Malagasy friends and neighbors. It was a simple reminder that despite the differences that may separate us from one other -- language, politics, geography, religion -- there will still always be things that we as members of the human family can find in common. As long as we keep that notion in sight, perhaps the everlasting peace we talk about so much during the Christmas season is not such a distant possibility.
My Christmas morning was not the most delightful I've ever had. I woke up to another round of one of the many illnesses this island has to offer, so the morning was spent lying in bed fighting nausea and making frequent runs to the bathroom. Although I wasn't feeling great, I finally dragged myself out of bed by late morning to get ready for lunch. I had stayed at site specifically to experience Malagasy Christmas, and I didn't want to miss out on the invitation I had received to eat lunch with my landlord and his family (who live below me). Despite the stomach pangs, it was a very enjoyable meal. Everyone wants to know: what do the Malagasy eat for Christmas/other holidays? To be honest, it's pretty much the exact same as any other day, but slightly more fancy. We ate rice with a couple of different meat dishes (beef, pork), but with the addition of soft drinks. Most families will splurge on what they consider to be better cuts of meat (more fat, pigs' feet, intestines, etc.), but that's about as elaborate as it gets. My landlord's family happens to be one of the richest in my village, so they may have had even more than most. For our part Charity, Brad, and I had taken over a pineapple, drinks, and cookies to share. Although a stark contrast from the often over-commercialized American Christmas, it was really nice to share the day with good friends, good hospitality, and good food.
As we were wrapping up the meal, a couple of the guys spontaneously burst into a Malagasy jam session on my guitar. Here's a short video for you to see:
And that's how my Christmas went! I hope your holidays were just as enjoyable. I'll be putting up another post or two by tomorrow about recent work and vacation, but this is all I'm putting in this one.