Season’s greetings arrive from Bolivia, Brazil and Guatemala, as children share their Christmas traditions. Over the course of the year, they have received great encouragement, love and hope from our sponsors and donors. All of us at ChildFund are thankful for your generosity and kindness!
Quema del diablo (burning of the devil), processions, posadas, firecrackers, eating tamales and drinking ponche (a traditional fruit drink) are traditions that people in the communities we serve in Guatemala practice before Christmas. “Feliz Navidad” means Happy Christmas, and the majority of the celebration happens the afternoon and evening of Dec. 24. Christmas is a very special day. Children share with the family and have fun, even when the economic situation is not good.
Yuri is 12 years old; she lives in the central highlands of Guatemala. At home, Yuri and her mother make tamales and ponche for Christmas. She has a tree in the back of her house, and she likes to decorate it for the season. “I would like every child to enjoy and celebrate Christmas as I do,” Yuri says.
“Hi, my name is Floridalma, I’m 12 years old, and I love Christmas because I participated in the posadas, traditional processions that start nine days before Christmas. The group sings traditional songs at various homes. For the season my family and I eat tamales and ponche.”
Eight-year-old Leticia, a sponsored child: “This Christmas I think will be very good, because my uncles come to visit us and will bring me gifts, like dolls and clothes. I do not believe that Santa Claus exists, but I know that Dec. 25 was the day that the baby Jesus was born. I see Santa Claus only when I step in front of stores, never asked him for any gifts, but I want to get a bike.”
Six-year-old Joao: “I’m in the first year of basic school. I like studying, but I also like the vacations because it’s when Christmas comes. My father’s name is Geraldo, and my mother’s is Maria. I have two sisters, Sara and Nilma. I love Christmas; it’s a day of receiving gifts. I stare at the lights of the shops. I love lights flashing. On Christmas Eve my mother does supper, because we are a simple family. Before Christmas Day, a friend of my mother sends Christmas gifts by mail. I have won a basket with a boat, a game of little pieces to assemble and a [remote] control car. On Christmas Eve, I like to go to sleep early to wake up early to see if Santa left something for me. I love Christmas!”
In Tarija, according to our sponsorship team member Victoria Glody, there is a dance called trenzada, and the celebration starts two weeks before Christmas Eve, when children dance and sing carols (known in Spanish as villancicos) with small drums and flutes to “Niño Manuelito” — that’s what baby Jesus is called by children in Bolivia. During the trenzada, people dance around the streets on their way to the town’s main square; once they get there, everybody enjoys hot chocolate and a special type of bread, or buñuelos, which is basically fried pumpkin dough.
Cochabamba rural areas have a different and harder reality, reports Alain, a coordinator with one of ChildFund’s local partner organizations. Although children expect toys and gifts, their parents can’t afford them, but they have figured out smart ways to make wooden or clay toys. They also make clay nativity scenes to celebrate Christmas Eve at home. Children also dress as the old wise men or shepherds, with a cape and beard made of cotton and go out singing “Niño Manuelito” at their neighbors’ homes, and in return they get bread or fruit. For Christmas Day, it’s traditional to have breakfast with hot chocolate and “buñuelos” too. Parents and grandparents gather together at home as a big family.
In El Alto, 6-year-old Viviana says: “On Christmas day I take a walk with my family, I play with my little cousin, and that night we have hot chocolate and Christmas cake. I like that day because there is more joy at home.”
Reporting by Patricia Toquica, Americas Region Communications Manager and the ChildFund Americas communications team
The holidays often bring back sweet memories from our childhood. The smell of cookies coming right out of the oven, the sound of bells from the Christmas songs, figuring out what Santa left for us under the tree and the moment we all waited for in my family: Aunt Paula bringing a huge, sizzling turkey to the beautifully decorated Christmas table.
By working abroad, one gets to enjoy and learn about the holiday traditions in many places. The dishes, the weather and the customs may vary, but one thing remains the same: This is the time of the year when adults get to feel like children again, and when many of us renew our hearts with joy and the feeling that everything will be better in the year to come.
In the Americas, sponsored children in ChildFund programs are celebrating with their families in many different ways.
“Christmas for me is to forgive and find joy without much,” says Beatriz, 10, who is from Brazil. This year she worked with her aunt to decorate a tree in her backyard. “We used disposable bottles to decorate it, added twinkling lights, sparkles, dolls and ornaments. We used everything we had at home, because we couldn’t afford to buy new ones. The tree looks very beautiful,” Beatriz says.
“For me, Christmas is all the lights of different colors and the music. I share with my family, we go to sleep after midnight and we eat tamales and tortillas,” says Yennifer, 6, of Guatemala.
In most Latin American countries, traditions are centered on Christian beliefs; from Dec. 16 to 24, families in Mexico, Ecuador, Guatemala and Honduras celebrate the posadas by gathering to pray and wait for the arrival of baby Jesus. Children participate by re-enacting the nativity scene and remembering what Mary and Joseph had to endure until the day Jesus was born. Then families gather and eat traditional foods like tamales, buñuelos, pristiños and tortillas.
“I like to get dressed as Virgin Mary and help with decorating of our streets with lights,” says Carmen, 12, of Honduras.
In Ecuador, communities celebrate the birth of Jesus with little parades known as “El Paso del Niño,” in which children wear costumes, dance, sing and pray. In Bolivia, families create small altars in their homes, and children dress as shepherds, dance and sing villancicos, or carols, to baby Jesus.
“What I like the most about this season are the stories and typical foods such as turkey and Christmas cake with fruits and also to see my family together, with love and affection,” says Taynara, 11, of Brazil.
On the Caribbean island of St. Vincent, the main tradition is the Nine Mornings, a festival that occurs the nine mornings before Christmas and includes parades, dancing, sea bathing, singing, joking and all kinds of contests. Although some believe that this tradition started earlier, most likely the Nine Mornings started in the 1920s and ’30s as part of early-morning window shopping when people would try to be first in line to buy hot bread and butter.
In the United States, Santa visits parties and hands out gifts from sponsors to children, and in Texas, many sponsored children celebrate the posadas tradition from Mexico.
Christmas trees and Santa Claus are also popular in Latin America, although most children are told by their families that Jesus brings gifts, not Santa. In Bolivia, for example, instead of leaving cookies and milk for Santa, children leave their shoes by their beds so that Jesus can put gifts inside.
“We celebrate the holidays with my family gathered at home and at church,” says Alicia, 8, of Brazil. “New Year´s is a very joyful day because we hope for a new year filled with peace, health and a new life for all.”
By Kate Andrews
We all have friends or family members who have everything they want or need. They definitely don’t want one more thing taking up space on the coffee table. ChildFund has a great solution: Donate a gift to a child in your loved one’s name.
ChildFund’s Gifts of Love & Hope 2012 catalog offers all sorts of needed items (at many price points) that help children and entire communities. For the full selection, visit our online catalog, but we would like to highlight a few gifts here.
A chicken farm with 50 chicks — a food and income generator in Mexico and Brazil — is $144, or $72 for 25 chicks. Each chicken farm will help an average of 10 children.
Banana starter plants are important to families in Uganda who often struggle to meet their children’s nutritional needs. A gift of 20 plants, costing $35, can provide food and a possible cash crop. The extra income fills other needs like education, clothing and medication.
Another gift that leads to self-sufficiency is a set of gardening tools, which cost $54. Children can use hoes, spades, pitchforks and more to tend vegetable gardens. This gift comes from requests by children in Belarus, Ethiopia, Mexico and Zambia.
If you’re having a hard time choosing a specific gift, donations to the fund for Children’s Greatest Needs provide help to many children in dire need, whether they have limited access to clean water and food, or live in a region affected by political violence or a natural disaster.
Just in the past two months, Guatemala experienced a strong earthquake, and the Philippines felt the wrath of Typhoon Bopha. You can donate the amount you prefer on your order form.
To provide information about your gift to your loved one, you can even print a last-minute card from our website.
Happy holidays to you and yours!
By Kate Andrews
Who knew we had such musical (and comic) talent here at ChildFund’s international office? See for yourself with our 12 Days of Christmas Remix video that highlights selections from this year’s Gifts of Love & Hope catalog. A fruit tree sapling, a team of oxen, 12 head of cattle and other gifts are featured in song, all performed by ChildFund staff.
Instead of “five golden rings,” we have “five garden tools,” sung by Matthew Straw and Jetta Washington from our sponsor care department.
That’s a traditionally memorable line in the original song (can anyone forget Miss Piggy in the Muppets’ version?), and Matt and Jetta make the most of it. Matt says they drew some attention the day before the shoot while practicing in the parking lot with props. “We wanted to have the most impact,” he says of their decision to sing number five.
Melissa Wade of the marketing department is part of the team of “biker girls” and also sings the line about “11 wellness checkups.” She’s the only one pretending to ride a bicycle, in case you have trouble identifying her. Now “everybody walks past me doing that,” she jokes. “Typical Melissa, being silly.”
The video, which was filmed in ChildFund’s library after work hours, was a lot of fun to make, and everyone came up with their own performance ideas, the participants say. They hope the video will encourage people to donate gifts from the catalog, which are requested by children in the 31 countries ChildFund serves. Celeste Pounds, the senior marketing specialist who impersonates an ox in the video, was involved in creating the catalog from day one.
As for the video, it’s worth looking a little ridiculous if we can help children, she jokes, although she did put on her sunglasses “in hopes of not being identifiable.” She adds that it was fun to spend time with colleagues in a setting away from the typical work environment, and the “milk mustache” and garden tool lines are among her favorite parts of the video.
Ruth Iswariah, a global human resources generalist, took on two roles: narrating the beginning and end of the video and singing the “two sturdy shoes” line, which she does in Hindi, the national language of India. Many children in developing countries lack sturdy shoes, and Ruth takes that situation seriously, so she asked a friend to let her daughter be in the video to represent the children who need shoes.
“Even though the video is funny, it’s moving,” Ruth says. We encourage you to watch the 12 Days of Christmas Remix, share it with your friends and family, and consider giving a gift to a child in need.
By Loren Pritchett, ChildFund Writer
Attention early holiday shoppers! (And if that’s not you, we totally understand). But if you are the type who likes to get a jump on things, we wanted to let you in on the news: The 2012 edition of ChildFund’s Gifts of Love & Hope catalog is now online and in the mail.
You’ll find hundreds of meaningful gifts in this year’s catalog including clean water, warm clothing, school supplies, medical needs and a barnyard of farm animals.
They’re not usually gift wrapped and you can’t find them at just any store, but goats are one of the most requested items in many of the countries where ChildFund works. Providing nutritious milk, fertilizer and a source of family income, goats are a valuable asset to families and communities. ChildFund’s Gifts of Love & Hope catalog makes it possible to send this essential gift and many more to families in need. As an early shopper you will have peace of mind knowing that your shopping is done and your timely gifts are answering a family’s most urgent needs.
Honor your loved ones with a gift ordered before Dec. 15, and they will receive a personalized card announcing your generosity. For gift catalog orders of $100 or more, placed by Dec. 31, ChildFund will deliver a free mosquito net in your honor. Take advantage of these specials, order early!
Once you order – we take care of the rest! Each item in the catalog has been specifically requested by children and families who live in ChildFund program areas. ChildFund staff in each country will purchase and then deliver your gift. You can rest assured that each item is delivered and used as described in the catalog. In many cases of farm animal purchases, ChildFund will even provide gift recipients with additional training in animal husbandry to maximize the value of your donation.
For children in our programs, these gifts are an opportunity for a brighter, healthier future. We invite you to preview the catalog and purchase a gift of love and hope that will help change a child’s life.
by Karen Chieng, ChildFund Kenya intern
They may not be based at the North Pole, but ChildFund employees are paving the way for a happy holiday for children in our programs.
Right now, ChildFund offices around the world are abuzz with various activities. It’s one of the busiest times of the year for our organization. As much as opportunities to be of service to others surround us every day, our commitment becomes heightened during this season of giving.
As sponsors continue to show their love and support toward the children by sending Christmas and holiday greetings, ChildFund employees are happy to play the role of Santa’s helpers. In each of our national offices, a team is busily working to ensure that children receive their letters in time to celebrate the season. After all, photos, cards and letters are the crucial links in the chain of friendship between sponsors and children.
So as the mail keeps pouring in from thoughtful sponsors, we’re making our list and checking it twice to ensure speedy delivery. We know children are eagerly awaiting the latest news, updates and small gifts from their sponsors.
We take joy in spreading good cheer and love this time of year.