In the third part of our series on Christmas around the world, we hear from Martin & Julie Field in Argentina about a family tradition they have shared with friends in Córdoba. Terry & Liz McCoy also share the exciting gift they hope to give to children on Groote Eylandt in the Northern Territory. Click here for part one and here for part two.
Jesse Trees in Argentina—Martin & Julie Field
Christmas in Argentina is pretty low-key for the average Argentine. To be honest, there are so many feriados (public holidays—there are 18!) on the Argentine calendar that Christmas feels like just another day off. People tend not to differentiate between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve as both include a late night BBQ, family and fireworks. We appreciate the lack of materialism and fuss that overwhelms us when we visit an Australian shopping centre!
However, in my ladies’ Bible study group, it often strikes me how ordinary Christmas is for many Christian families. Apart from another BBQ and a bit of gift giving, there are very few Christmas traditions. Few Argentines own a Christmas tree or decorate their homes.
One family tradition we have enjoyed for the past 18 years to help us remember the true meaning of Christmas is our homemade Jesse Tree. We take this felt wall hanging with us on holidays (we escape to the Córdoba hills during part of December), and every night we add an image to the Advent tree and read a short portion of the Bible, beginning on the first night in Genesis 1. I have been able to share this idea with ladies from church, who now include this tradition in their family preparations for Christmas.
The Christmas story for children on Groote—Terry & Liz McCoy
In the past, Angurugu and Umbakumba churches have put on community dramas at Christmas. But for the last few years, church has either not happened, or has only been the usual two or three people gathering to pray and read the Bible together. Last year, there was no service at Angurugu, but at Umbakumba, Rev Colleen Mamarika and another church member walked the community, greeting each household with a Christmas greeting of peace. In other homes, celebrations were much more about lots of food bought from the local shop and maybe one major present for the children to share bought with money from mining royalties. Some houses put up Christmas lights and a few had Christmas trees cut from the bush or artificial ones.
This year, we are really hoping that our Christmas children’s nativity storybook in Anindilyakwa and English will be ready before the end of term. This book was produced by local translators earlier this year and is being published by the Bible Society as a colouring book. We hope that we will be able to go into Angurugu and Umbakumba schools to share this story with the children. We also hope that we can adapt the story to an audio script and have locals record this dramatic reading at the language centre to put on a phone app. We have started practising Christmas carols in English and Anindilyakwa (there are several that have been translated and are in the song books) as the church wants to walk with candles, singing carols through the Angurugu community on Christmas Eve. A couple of families are also keen to practise a nativity drama for Christmas Day to act out in Angurugu church during our Christmas service.
Thank God for revealing himself to us through his word. Pray that during Advent and Christmas, Christian Argentines would read the Bible and remember the importance of celebrating the Lord Jesus coming into the world as our Saviour so long ago.
Thank God for the Bible Society’s willingness to publish the nativity storybook for children on Groote Eylandt. Pray that many would receive it and learn about the true hope and joy offered to all people at Christmas.