A few weeks ago we got this message: “Tomorrow church starts at 8, not 9, and there will be many people! It is Christmas for the women…so you should come around 7”, our contact person told us in Norwegian. “Hææ? And in the middle of January?” Okay, I asked in a nicer way, trying to understand. “Christmas for the women? What does that mean?” In Norway, we sing a song including: “…og julen varer helt til påske” (…and Christmas last until Easter). This is more literal here in Madagascar than in Norway where all of December the streets and radio give people the “Christmas spirit”, but after new year’s there is only the occasional “julebord”.
The women celebrated Christmas, the next week the youth department in the Lutheran church, FKTLM, celebrated Christmas, this past week it was Christmas for the men, and the coming week is Christmas for the scouts.
For the occasion, the church in Fandriana was completely filled up – filled to the point of people standing in the back, sitting on the stairs up to the gallery, and standing outside the church. People from about thirteen churches all gathered in Fandriana (the “big” city) during the women’s Christmas. The group of women who were the first to perform the songs and dances they had prepared for their Christmas, were from about three hours away – walking. During Christmas for the youth department, the choirs sang at various times during the service – such as during the offering which lasted for about 1.5 hour. During women’s Christmas, the women of the churches were thanked, especially the pastor’s wives, without whom the work in the church would suffer and the children would not be taught as much in the homes.
Besides the continuation of Christmas celebrations, the last couple of weeks has been one of parties and visits. First, we had our friend’s family over for Norwegian/Swedish dinner because of Pernille’s birthday. We ended formally in typical Malagasy style (from what I have experienced) with a hymn. With those who stayed for a little, we danced (more stereotypical main-land African style than Malagasy). Thanks to our friend, who had a birthday on Thursday, we experienced something new: I learned something new, and a chicken became our dinner. A few days later we were invited to the home of our friend’s parents for yet another birthday party, and I am grateful for their hospitality and tasty Malagasy food – better than when Pernille and I try. And, here is a video from the New Years’ party with the teachers at SFM (your welcome aunt Jen).
Otherwise, Pernille and I have finally gotten to know a few other people – students, the contact person of an American peace corps volunteer, and a French couple who regularly come to teach for a period at SFM.