Tales from Tanzania - O'Neil Family Blog

Though we have already been in Tanzania for one year, this is a journal of our time at Haven of Peace Academy in Dar es Salaam. Karibu sana.

December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas!

How does one celebrate Christmas in tropical Tanzania? Well, we do many of the same activities and preparations you probably do to get ready for Christ's birthday, but perhaps with a little twist on things. First, instead of getting out our woolies and hats and mittens, we are gearing up - or already in - the hot season. Temperatures are daily in the 90's with humidity in the 90%-100%. So while, you are beginning to shiver, we are sweating!

We attempt to prepare by celebrating advent. We are reading an advent story each night and daily hanging up an ornament that represents one of the names of Christ (like "Living Water" or "Alpha and Omega") You can see some of the ornaments hanging on the railing in the picture. My old neighbors will remember one year we all spent advent making these white ornaments and our homes were filled with sequence and beads. It was one of the things I transported from the States to our home here. Funny what items we deam important when left to really think about it! We even have a tree that we planted in a pot last year and has grown to look sort of like a tropical version of a Christmas tree. We sweated profusely as we attempted to decorate it with whatever we could find - decorations for the tree I did not bring from the States!

As many of you are busy packing up those shoe boxes to send out with Samaritan's Purse to those who don't receive presents very often, we are also involved in the project - just on the other end of things. Benjamin and Thomas's classes at HOPAC were involved with passing out the boxes to kids at a local orphanage. They each delivered a shoe box personally and then were even able to spend some time with the kids just hanging out - Benj even played soccer with the kids. It was an amazing experience for the boys to not only be the ones putting the gifts into the boxes, but also delivering them and getting to see first hand the reaction to their gifts.

There is also the traditional Christmas program at Haven of Peace Academy. Tommy played the cutest little sheep you ever have seen - even with missing teeth! Benjamin was an angel and they all sang while we watched - sweating. Anna was of course far too cool to sing in a traditional choir but she did a modern dance with a group of girls to a modern Christmas song. We've also enjoyed watching the movie "Nativity Story" - great movie that really caused us to stop and reflect on the reality of Christ's birth and God's amazing plan - we also marvelled at the response of Mary and Joseph and so many others involved in that snippet of time that changed everthing for us.

As you will be spending Christmas Eve and Day with family, we are having to adjust living so far from home. We will be attending a Christmas Eve carol service overlooking the Indian Ocean as the sun sets. There will be a few gifts to open but not nearly what we would have in the States - there simply is not very much to buy here. Perhaps the biggest adjustment is to spend the day with friends instead of family. We will have a British family, a German single, and two other American families over for dinner - quite an international mix. While we are sad to be away from family, we are grateful for the great opportunity to be with such a diverse array of friends.

All in all, our Christmas is still what it should be, celebrating the birth of Christ and being grateful for God's amazing plan for mankind. Merry Christmas from Tanzania!