Christmas Eve in Marulaon
Christmas Eve here in the village is about as far away from Christmas in North America as you can possibly get. Physically, we are obviously across the Pacific Ocean. The weather is hot and steamy, too, so that by mid-morning, I'm often strongly suggesting that Aaron put on a clean shirt.
Hospitality looks different, as well, when you are preparing for hundreds of people to descend on the village for 24 hours and nobody has refrigeration.
Passport culture traditions get set aside as we embrace the traditions of our adopted culture.
So, today looked like Sarah scraping thirty-seven coconuts in preparation for cooking for both Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, while the rest of us peeled cassava, pumpkins, and potatoes,
gathered leaves and flowers to weave into garlands to decorate the church,
grated cassava on our maio (which still reminds me of a medieval torture device, even though it's really just a huge grater),
and grated even more (because two big baskets of cassava showed up on our porch, deposited by thoughtful friends who knew the cassava in our garden wasn't ripe yet),
working with friends to continue the long process of decorating the church,
and finally getting the fire ready and the potatoes and pumpkins stuffed with coconut cream just in time for the guests to arrive and Marulaon to welcome them.
We sang and danced as the guests pulled up to the shore in canoes,
and kept singing and dancing and waiting as all of the guests assembled.
Then the chief welcomed our guests and made a few announcements,
and the visiting chiefs responded with their brief speeches. Then we went back home to finish the lelenga/cassava pudding while the teenagers prepared to sing with the choir during the evening service.
The bell for church surprised us, and Aaron and I decided to wait until after church to put the pudding on the fire, and Aaron just heaped up coconut shells on top of the fire and stones to keep them hot.
After church, we finished preparing the pudding for tomorrow and pulled out the food for tonight to share with our visitors.
When everybody had finished eating, the caroling began. Around 9:00, Marulaon's choir started the festivities by singing five carols, followed by each of the other villages in our church district. The custom here is to place small gifts on a table set up in front of the carolers, so we brought jars filled with unpopped popcorn as our gift for each group. We finally straggled back up the hill around 10:30, anticipating Eta bringing our fish sometime in the middle of the night so we could cook our contribution for the Christmas Day feast.