Christmas In Sentani

We are asked many times what Christmas time is like here. While it is true that the majority of people here are moslems, there is a significant Christian present. The <i>Pancasila</i> guarantees freedom of worship. Therefore, Christmas Day One and Christmas Day Two (Dec. 26) are national holidays.

But, the celebrations start long before December 25. Toward the beginning of November, "Christmas" music is played throughout the neighbors, very early and late in the day. Scare quotes are around "Christmas" because much of the music is in english and it isn't Christmas. It is songs like "The Green, Green Grass of Home" and "My Darlin' Clementine." It is quite loud, so that all and sundry are able to rejoice in Christ's birth. Many years <i>pondok natals</i>, Christmas huts, are built for the broadcasting of this music.

Decorated places are anywhere and everywhere. Lots of tinsel and glitter are used. The town has a variety of Christmas decorations including lights dangling across the street and trees decorating the median of the main street. Artificial trees are sold in every store. It is very hard to find real trees. In the past, Mike has found a source for pine tree cuttings, but that hasn't been available in recent years. This year, we bought a norfolk pine, and two small pine trees.

School continues until just before Christmas. This year it will restart on January 10. Most village workers head interior as fast as they can. Those of us who remain behind celebrate with activities such as singing through Handel's Messiah, caroling through neighborhoods, private parties, and Caroling Under the Pines, a Christmas Eve service.

Christmas Day begins with a church service. Stores are closed, if it falls on a Monday through Saturday. Gift-giving is not a tradition here although we have maintained that custom. But then, feasting begins. There are holiday buffets at many people's homes. It is expected that friends drop in throughout the day and the next day and eat a meal with the hosts and exchange Christian fellowship.

For those who haven't realized, we never have a white Christmas here. The temperatures are always between the high 70s and low 90s.