Christmas in Haiti

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ — who was born in Bethlehem, lived a divine life, died by crucifixion, and miraculously rose from the grave. However, in Haiti it is widely celebrated by Christians and non-Christians alike as a holiday with non-religious aspects. Some of the secular activities have become extremely popular in Haiti.

In the beginning of December, it is a tradition that Haitians cut pine branches to serve as Christmas trees or go to the market and get freshly cut trees brought from the mountains. They decorate them with bright ornaments, and at the base add a large nativity scene, which could occupy a large part of their living room. This is also a practice used by institutions, organizations and churches as well.

To make the decorations last longer, Haitians buy artificial Christmas trees with bright ornaments and decorate the front view of compounds with multicolor lights and animation.

Christmas in Haiti

The streets are also busy with people buying new things for themselves and for their homes. The stores offer bargain prices for their products. Homes are being fixed, freshly painted and the smells of new cloth, wood polish and varnish remain in the air.

On Christmas Eve, children place their shoes, nicely cleaned up and filled with straw, on the porch or under the Christmas tree. Tonton Nwèl (Santa Claus) is expected to remove the straw and put presents in and around the shoes.

Christmas Day is a day with a lot of eating and drinking, singing and playing with the toys brought by Tonton Nwèl in the middle of the night. The children might also play with fireworks that they mostly made themselves from chemicals bought in stores.

All houses in the neighborhood are open with all lights on until about three o’clock in the morning. Some people go to midnight Mass. Others go out in the neighborhood in groups, caroling.

Parents generally give their children complete freedom on this night and generally do not know or inquire where the children go. The older children are in charge.

Children of practically all ages are allowed to drink anisette on Christmas Eve. Anisette is a mild alcoholic beverage prepared by soaking “anise” leaves in rum and sweetening it with sugar.

Those who go to midnight Mass return home to enjoy the meals of the “reveillon.” The word “reveillon” is French for a Christmas or New Year’s Eve supper and comes from the verb meaning “to wake up.” The occasion is, however, more a breakfast than a supper. It begins very early in the morning and often lasts nearly till dawn.

In Haiti, the big event of Christmas happens on December 24th, which is a very busy day. December 25th, which is the official Christmas Day, is usually quiet because people — especially children and youth — wake up late as they stayed awake overnight to have fun on Christmas Eve.

To make the Christmas season special for impoverished children, Compassion child development centers, early in December, usually mobilize their resources to see the best way to celebrate with their children.

Christmas in Haiti Gifts

The centers hold big events where children come to perform, receive surprises and be fed as well. The Christmas events held by the centers are usually what make Christmas unforgettable for such children, who would not have the chance to receive gifts at home or even be in an environment where they would feel special at this time of the year.

Furthermore, as Compassion is about education, tutors in club activities take time to explain to the children the meaning of Christmas and how it is worth celebrating. They teach them Christmas carols like “Emmanuel” and “Away in a Manger,” which they take pleasure to sing together.

As a result, many children have also confessed Jesus Christ as the Savior of their lives in this special time of the year. They realize how much God loves them by sending His only son, Jesus Christ, on earth to show the world the way to salvation.

Like children from the middle class, children in the Compassion program — who usually come from very poor families — look forward to Christmas time every year. They feel they are not different from other children whose parents can afford to buy toys, new clothes and shoes as Christmas gifts for them.

It is a season they feel loved, a season where they can receive new clothes they can wear to join other children in the neighborhood or go to a park for fun or visit some relatives. Help children in Haiti living in poverty receive the critical care and encouragement they need. Sponsor a child in Haiti today.

16 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Dani Michelle Paris December 16, 2016

    If you still need help. Please contact me Asap. I stay home. i lost one son to getting killed and decapitated in a car accident. My father died , My husband died of heart attack after 2 years . It happe ed in within two years. Along with other things
    I would like to come and help over the holidays or more. All my other children are grown and in there 30’s. I was a College Professor, in Health and Wellness also, had my own Fitness Center for Women and females, and taught the police academy. Thank You.

    1. Susan Sayler December 19, 2016

      Dani, I am so sorry to hear of these recent losses. My heart breaks for you. 🙁 What kind of help were you hoping to provide? One thing you might consider is the volunteer position of letter writer. We have volunteers write to children whose sponsor is unable to write regular encouraging letters. This is a very important ministry that you could do from home. Please email us at [email protected] with your contact information if you are interested in this volunteer opportunity.

  2. ethan December 17, 2015

    haiti is fun sad and a neat place

  3. Elvin December 16, 2014

    Haiti is awesome

  4. Rita Gibson December 21, 2013

    Thank you so much for sharing about Christmas in Haiti. I am so thankful for Compassion which strives to bring the true meaning of Christmas to the children. It was wonderful to learn how my sponsored child will spent her Christmas. Praise God and Thank you to all the Compassion workers.

  5. Black_Dove January 14, 2010

    Compassion, are you headed to or in Haiti? I know of someone from an online social media site who’s in Guatemala with your organization. Do you change plans during extraordinary times like these to go where help is needed most or are your funds limited? Let us know.

  6. Sheryl January 12, 2010

    Thank you for giving me more insight to the customs surrounding a child I support. I feel so inept in communicating with her because we live in such different circumstances. Yet, I know we have one Father. All information of God’s children is so important. God Bless this ministry.

  7. Nick Matyas January 5, 2010

    It’s really an impressive posting. I liked it & think that it will be helpful for others. Keep up the good work. Good luck.

    Web Royalty

  8. Melodie January 3, 2010

    Reading about the national Christmas customs and the Compassion-project activities during that season will help me write a more meaningful and pertinent letter to my sponsored child. Thanks for the information.

  9. Diana December 29, 2009

    I love that the children don’t feel different from wealthier children. It reminds me of verses in the Bible that talk about our common ground as sinners in this world and how we should not favor some people over others. Just a simple thing, like giving a gift which allows the children to feel equal, allows God to show His goodness. I liked that the centers are educating the children at their celebrations as well as having fun. Thank you for sharing this. The little girl pictured is precious.

  10. Teresa December 29, 2009

    Thank you for sharing the Haitian traditions. It helps me know more about my sponsored child, and what her world is like. It provides a stronger connection when I can better relate to her.

    1. mary December 9, 2013

      aww that is sweet

    2. dynavia November 15, 2012

      i know how you feel my dad is from hati

  11. Black_Dove December 28, 2009

    Of course, he’s just one person and more needs to be done. Thank you, Compassion.

  12. Black_Dove December 28, 2009

    Wyclef Jean went home for Christmas bearing gifts. He has major charities/sponsors linked to Haiti.

  13. Juli Jarvis December 28, 2009

    Thank you so much — it’s delightful to read about Christmas in Haiti. I have sponsored two boys there and met the older one finally after 16 years, just before his sponsorship was completed. Haiti is very special to me.

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