Tag Archives: Africa

Dec 24 2008

Christmas in Madagascar

The following entry was contributed by the Antsirabe, Madagascar, project. CFCA serves more than 700 children, youth and the aging in Madagascar.

madagascar_christmas

Once, a little child in the countryside was asked, “What is Christmas all about?” The answer was, “Christmas is when we receive little rice cakes in church.”

The child remembered something important about Christmas: the gift of a couple of rice cakes in church. And this happens only on Christmas.

Christmastime is very much a time when families get together, visit each other or go to church together. Food will usually be better than the everyday meal. If they can afford it, parents will buy and prepare chicken or pork as a special meal.

Whoever can will dress in a smart, perhaps even new outfit. Since December is one of the hottest months of the year, women and girls will wear very pretty summer dresses in church.

As in most countries, people like to give each other Christmas gifts. Within families, parents like to give new clothes to their children. Poorer families, however, may not be able to afford buying gifts, so they make do without. Christmas is a time of doing good for others as well.

For many people in Madagascar, Christmas is celebrated over a long period of time, spreading out over several months. It will usually start in the month of December with typical Christmas songs being sung in most churches.

Choirs and youth groups will meet on certain afternoons for practicing Christmas songs, so they will be able to perform well on Christmas Day or at another time. There are translated Western Christmas songs, but also many songs Malagasy people have written.

Many people write their own poems which will be presented at Christmas, on a special afternoon or on an additional Sunday for their specific group. Thus it is possible that each group in a church will celebrate Christmas on a given Sunday, presenting songs, sketches or Bible verses they learned by heart.

You can easily have Christmas celebrations all the way from December through to March. One church could easily have 20 Christmas celebration services, and everyone is welcome to come and enjoy.

Another custom is the walking around the Christmas tree. If possible, a pine tree will be erected in the front area of the church so that all the people can see it. Colorful ribbons or other decorations, small electric lights and cut-out pictures will give the tree a beautiful appearance.

On Christmas Day, each church group (women, men, choir, young people, Sunday school or children) will come to the front, singing and walking around the tree. Never mind that it takes a very long time. All the other people in church enjoy the songs, the live presentations of the others.

For those who need to stretch their legs or to buy some snacks outside, it is common practice to do so. Therefore, a Christmas service can last the whole morning, up to four or five hours.

Then in the afternoon, more singing and group presentations will continue. It is a local church event where everybody tries to attend or even take part.

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Dec 23 2008

A Christmas of coming together

The following blog entry was written by Rev. Kelly Demo, an Episcopal priest who preaches for CFCA. From 1990 to 1991, she served as a volunteer for International Christian Youth Exchange in Sierra Leone, West Africa.

Just outside my little house there was a large boulder upon which both lizards and I enjoyed lying. One evening very close to Christmas, I was sprawled out on my rock enjoying conversation with a sweet 8-year-old Sierra Leonean named John. We talked many nights about a great many things, and that night he asked me about Christmas in America. I had been missing my family, so I waxed on about my memories of childhood Christmases at my grandparentsí home, of going to midnight Mass, and of Santa Claus.

We lay silently for several minutes looking up at the stars, and finally John said, ìSanta Claus doesnít come to Africa.î
†I looked at him and was overcome with sadness. He fully believed in Santa Claus. He had heard about this guy who travels around the world bringing gifts to good boys and girls. However, neither John nor any of his friends had ever received anything from Santa. He judged himself and his Christmas by Western standards, and he simply could not measure up.

The irony in this is that most Westerners long for the exact kind of Christmas that John and so many others in developing countries have. Christmas in America is generally a time of frenzied activity, of spending money and feeling tired, guilty, lonely, anxious. Then there are the precious moments of joy, of connection and Christís peace that come and go too soon and leave us yearning for more.†

Just yesterday, three friends and I tried to meet for a cup of coffee before Christmas. We all love each other dearly and draw strength and encouragement from one another. But one had to meet her mom to go shopping for her kids, one had to meet with a contractor who is remodeling her home, one rushed off to work, and I had my own errands. Nothing is more important than our relationships, yet the tyranny of the urgent always supersedes that which is important.

Imagine instead, Christmas where many families come together to cook and eat and sing and play and celebrate. There is no pressure or expectation to buy gifts. There is nothing more urgent in the world than to sit down with your elders and listen to stories. There is no errand that is more important than visiting a friend you have not seen in a long time. And yes, Virginia, a place where there is no Santa Claus. That is the kind of Christmas that my little friend John would have along with billions of others around the world.

That is one of the many gifts the poor have to offer us. They stand as a witness to our Christmases past, the past that we look to with nostalgia. A Christmas when Jesus is truly at the center of the celebration as we welcome him, a homeless child, into our hearts and into our world.

We here at CFCA wish you a peace-filled Christmas. Please keep the children, elderly and their families whom we serve in your prayers, just as you remain in ours.

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Oct 6 2008

Blog for CFCA and join the discussion on global poverty

Join the discussion about global poverty on Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008.

We know that people in the blogosphere can learn so much through your CFCA sponsor experiences: what it’s like to join with families living in poverty; telling about how your own view of poverty has changed through your sponsorship, and how poverty now has a personal meaning for you.

Blog Action Day ’08 gives bloggers around the world a chance to focus one day Wednesday, Oct. 15 – on one topic - poverty.

Blog Action Day ’08 gives bloggers around the world a chance to focus one day  Wednesday, Oct. 15 – on one topic - poverty.

Here’s how the Blog Action Day Web site describes it:
“Blog Action Day is an annual nonprofit event that aims to unite the world’s bloggers, podcasters and videocasters, to post about the same issue on the same day. Our aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion.”

To be a part of the event:

  1. Register your blog on the blog action day site (blogactionday.com) between now and Oct. 14.
  2. Start preparing your blog message based on your experiences as a CFCA sponsor.
    (e-mail us if you have questions)
  3. Post your blog entry on Oct. 15.


At the end of your blog post, please feel free to include the following description of CFCA:

CFCA is a Kansas City-based international movement serving people living in poverty in 25 developing countries. We help families put food on the table, send their children to school and have a decent place to live so that together we can end the cycle of poverty. Founded by lay Catholics acting on the call to serve the poor, CFCA serves people of all faiths. To learn more, or to sponsor a child, visit www.cfcausa.org.

If you don’t have a blog, but would like to start one to post your message about poverty, here are a few blog sites that make it quick and easy:

Thank you for joining CFCA and sharing your personal story to help the world gain a better understanding of poverty and ways to help.

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