Celebrating Christmas in Haiti: A Time for Hope

Christmas or ”Nwel” in Haiti starts on December 24th and ends the evening of December 25th.

From the outside, some wonder with all the misery and suffering why do Haitians place so much emphasis on Christmas celebrations? As a matter of fact, no matter how bad things may seem, everyone looks forward to “ Nwel” in Haiti.

The focus is placed on the Nativity or the birth of the Savior. The birth of the Savior gives hope and is a sign for a new beginning. Even in the most remote areas of Haiti, you will see hand made “crèche” or nativity scenes and people using whatever they have to decorate their homes. They sometimes use ribbons, ropes, etc… but most decorations are made out of pine branches. They also use straw to create the nativity scenes.

On Christmas Eve (the night of December 24th), children place their clean shoes on the front porch and hope that “Papa Nwel”, or Father Christmas, will come and fill their shoes with goodies.  The adults get ready for “Reveyon” (translation: the wake up) — a community gathering which takes place after the midnight mass and lasts until dawn. Reveyon brings entire neighborhoods together. Everyone puts on their Sunday’s best and join in a community dinner. It’s a time of sharing and celebrations! It’s a special time to share meals and drinks. In rural Haiti, whoever is fortunate enough to own goats, pigs, poultry and sometimes cattle will donate one or many for the Reveyon celebration.

The Reveyon meal is a wonderful sampling of island specialties. The meat is seasoned for at least one day and then deep-fried into “taso” or “grillot”. The traditional holidays drinks are “kremas” and “anisette”. The kremas is a milky drink made out of coconut milk, carnation, rum and island spices. The anisette or “liqueur” is made of anise plant, rum and island spices. Often the meats are served with a “du ri djon-djon” a special rice cooked with a special mushroom. As sides, there is often baked macaroni, some green salad made with what’s found in that region and, of course, fried plantains and fried sweet potatoes. Various “marinades” and “accras” are also on the menu.

The Christmas “Reveyon” can last all night and children are free to roam around and stay all up night. Of course music also plays an important role in Christmas in Haiti. Someone usually brings a radio and plays festive Christmas songs. During that night of the 24th all troubles are forgotten. Delicious meals are served and everyone on the island gets a taste of paradise for a brief moment…

“Jwaye Nwel” (Merry Christmas) from your friends at Tree Angels for Haiti!