Christmas Around The World – Haiti
We say farewell to Guatemala and travel almost due East for 1936km, where we find ourselves in the Caribbean country of Haiti.
Haiti occupies the west side of the island of Hispaniola, with its neighbour Dominican Republic to the east. At 27,750 square km, it is the third largest country by land mass in the Caribbean and the most populous with around 11.4 million people living within its borders.
Haiti has been populated since around 5000 BC (originally by South American indigenous tribes) and has had many different civilizations ruling over it throughout history. The country declared independence from France in 1804, making it the second country in the Americas (after the United States) to free itself of colonial rule. Since that day, they have had more than 70 dictators rule the country.
Haiti is on top of a fault line and suffered a catastrophic magnitude 7 earthquake in 2010 causing huge damage to many cities and more than 100,000 deaths.
The official languages of Haiti are French and Creole – around 90% of Haitians speak Creole as their first language.
Let’s look at how the people of Haiti celebrate Christmas.
The Christmas festival is celebrated in Haiti on 25th December.
The predominant religion in Haiti is Roman Catholic. There are several other recognised religions in Haiti including Voodoo.
Christmas Trees are brought in at the beginning of December which tend to be pine trees from the mountains, although artificial trees are also quite popular. These are usually quite big and decorated with bright ornaments. Churches and shops will have trees on display. A large nativity scene is placed at the base of the tree in homes. ‘Fanal’ are very common decorations which are essentially intricately patterned paper boxes which are cut and decorated with tissue paper and then lit up and hung on porches and in windows.
People make sure that if they wanted to redecorate their home, it’s done before Christmas and people also make sure their house is clean.
On Christmas Eve, children will put their straw-filled, newly cleaned shoes under the tree on the porch in hopes that Santa (Tonton Nwèl) will remove the straw and leave presents in and around the shoes. Many houses in neighbourhoods will be open with all their lights on until 3.00am, meaning the children will often go out and parents tend to not know where they are in the early morning (the older children look after the younger ones).
Carol singing and attending a Midnight Mass service are popular on Christmas Eve. Many people will sleep through Christmas Day, but there’s more eating later on and children might play with their toys from Tonton Nwèl. Some children may also make fireworks from chemicals bought in stores and then set them off on Christmas Day.
People of all ages can drink ‘Anisette’ (a slightly alcoholic drink made by soaking ‘anise’ leaves in rum with sugar). The main Christmas meal is called ‘reveillon’ which normally starts after the Midnight Mass and lasts until dawn. Some of the main Christmas dishes are; fried pork, fried goat, pikliz (spicy pickled carrots and cabbage), fried plantains, Pain Patate (potato, fig and banana pudding), Haitian bread, and Pineapple Nog (drink).
Our next Christmas celebration destination is Hong Kong.