Christmas in Micronesia

Map of Micronesia, Oceania

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At the teacher’s school we learned how Christmas is celebrated throughout the islands of Micronesia, because the students come from all the districts. The greatest thrill for those on the field is to see these islanders plan, rehearse, and put on some appropriate enter­tainment pertaining to the season. This is a great accomplish­ment for people who have been denied opportunity for initia­tive for so many decades.

Men from the Marshalls put on their “Christmas Tree,” as they call it. A colorful hand-wrought tree is ingeniously hid­den inside a large wood cross. During the singing of Christmas carols and hymns the cross slowly opens and the “tree” rises from it. The first opening is accompanied by the noise of tiny firecrackers, which the singing group explode as they sing. Then the tree descends again into the cross until the singing of the last carol, when the two sides of the cross part and the tree remains-a Micronesian attempt to symbolize the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Girls of the Oa Christian Training School taught the lesson of the holiday through a tableau narrated by the “Spirit of Christmas,” who sought to convince a doubting Thomas that the birth of Christ was an event of everlasting worth.

When Micronesian teen-agers attempt to present the birth of our Savior in pageantry, they mix their culture and tradition with Biblical history. Their unfamiliarity with pastoral scenes of the earlier centuries was apparent from the part taken by the shepherds in the pageant last year. Yet their following of the star was quite effective, for a large “star” lighted by a kerosene lamp was drawn across the long room on an overhead wire.

Christmas Day is a church family day for Protestant Christians of Micronesia. Everyone attends the local church and spends most of the day there. The long worship service includes a message from every minister, lay preacher, and missionary in the area. Another hour or two is spent in hymn and carol singing. If gifts are presented, it is considered proper for each recipient to applaud himself as he goes to receive the two bars of soap he is likely to be given. American Board mission­aries often present gifts to mission school students at the annual Christmas parties. Such gifts come from our churches at home.

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