Our First Christmas and New Year Papua Style

     This past month has been such a blessing to our family as we prepared to celebrate our first Christmas and New Year on the Island of Papua. We had heard stories from our teammates of what it would be like but sometimes words are just not enough to prepare you for what you are about to go through. So I will try my best to share with you what our family has been experiencing these last few weeks.
     Here in Papua people start to prepare for the holidays at the beginning of December with Christmas music playing in all the stores. And around the same time the stores start selling Christmas trees (with some very interesting colors) and all the decorations that go along with the season. A lot of the music was in Indonesian but surprisingly you did hear a lot of English as well. It actually reminded me of Christmas back home a little bit.
     Next as you start to drive through town you would see groups of people building what looks like small houses built up on poles of bamboo. After the house was built they would then start to decorate the house (just like most people back home would decorate their house outside) with lights, plants, garland, and other Christmas things. Some even have small manager scene’s as well. Then after this would come the sound system/speakers that they will use to play Christmas music loud enough for the entire neighborhood and may be a few other neighborhoods (depending on the wind) to hear the music as well. Thankfully, our neighborhoods music was not to bad and the kids loved hearing the music and even got to sing along to song like Jingle Bells and Father Abraham in English.
     About the same time as the music starts to play we could head in the direction of the mall and start to notice them building wooden booths that would allow people to sell their fireworks. My guess that by the time New Year’s arrived there might have been over thirty little stalls all over town (that I noticed) where you could buy fireworks. So you can imagine that the noise level grew at night time as people prepared to bring in the New Year and Celebrate Christmas. Our family even went and found a small booth the day after Christmas and bought some fireworks so we could join in the fun.
     When you combine all of this together it did get a little loud at times but our children loved the holiday traditions that they got to see for the first time here. I think that it reminded them of home a little more then last year as Java celebrates very differently then here. Then came the long await Christmas boxes from my parents in Michigan about a week before Christmas. Plus Christmas parties at their school, an MAF hanger party, and even a nice Christmas dinner with four other MAF families on Christmas day.
     It was a great Christmas season learning about how the people celebrate here, adding our own family traditions, getting to talk with family through Skype, and then receiving all the wonderful cards and emails from beloved friends and family.
     All that then lead up to what we got to experience last night as we celebrated bringing in the New Year. For our family the party started down on MAF’s base where we had a barbecue/potluck supper with all our teammates that were still around. Once it got dark different families started lighting off fireworks which the kids and parents had a blast setting off.  Now I was greatly looking forward to this night as we had heard from different teammates that this was going to be an experience of a life time when it came to what we were about to see and hear. OH MY GOODNESS were they so right about it as we have never seen nor heard anything in our entire lives like what we did last night. Now I know that some places around the world big cities normally do a big firework show that can be pretty impressive. However, when you watch an entire city of people shooting up every kind of firecracker that is around all over an entire city for at least three hours (that was probably the most intense time of it) words can not do it justice at what we got to see and hear. At the peak while we were sitting on our front porch (probably ten minutes before midnight here) my husband had a great idea. He said, “let’s phone our parents so they can at least hear this as it is just unbelievable.” So a few moments later I am yelling into my phone to my parents as they laugh at what they are hearing in the back ground. It really sounded like I was standing in a war zone with a million different booms going off.
    After ringing in the New Year all my kids wanted to do was find somewhere a little quieter to sleep which meant that they all landed in Franklin’s room for the night. Right before Isaac decided to sleep in his brothers room he asked me a very serious question. He turned and asked me why the firecrackers were not stopping since it was already ten minutes past twelve? Trying not to laugh I told him that it probably would go on for another couple of hours. His response was, WHAT!!!! So with tears in his eyes he heading to his brothers room for some sleep. Thankfully everyone did get some sleep and we did maybe get two hours of quiet but they are once again shooting things off every now and then this morning. Jaclynn even came out this morning and asked me with a very worried look “are they going to do that again tonight?

All I can say is that it was a very memorable Christmas and New Year. We feel blessed beyond words that God has allowed us to be part of it with the people here on the Island of Papua. May you all have a blessed and Happy New Year.

                                                                  Who wants to play?

                                                                 Our new pets

                                                                   Girl Lego’s !!!!

Julie (and the rest of the clan)

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