A Harmattan Christmas

by Harriet E. Michael

Nigeria, where I grew up,  is a country on the coast of West Africa just beneath the Sahara Desert. Christmas in Nigeria comes in the middle of the dry season–a special part of the dry season known as Harmattan.

Wikipedia defines Harmattan like this: The Harmattan is a dry and dusty West African trade wind. It blows south from the Sahara into the Gulf of Guinea between the end of November and the middle of March. Humidity can drop to as low as 15 percent. In some countries in West Africa, the heavy amount of dust in the air can severely limit visibility and block the sun for several days, comparable to a heavy fog.

harmattan

Against this backdrop, we celebrated Christmas. My father used to say he liked the fact that Christmas came in the middle of Harmattan. In America everything would have been stark, cold, and dreary, with the trees bare and the air full of winter’s chill. And in the middle of this otherwise dreary time, Christians celebrate the birth of the Savior with ornamented and brightly-lit trees, gifts, good food, and Christmas cheer. Likewise in Nigeria, when the world was dry and dusty, all the leaves and grass a dreary brown, Christians celebrate the joyous birth of their Savior with songs and good cheer.

tree-lightsI loved the Christmases of my childhood! They were unique and wonderful. We used a small casuarina tree for our Christmas tree and decorated it with whatever we could find. Many of us had brought those old-fashioned large bulb tree lights and we had electricity, albeit somewhat unreliable.

This is not me, but my hair looked a lot like the girl in this picture!

This is not me, but my hair looked a lot like the girl’s in this picture!

On a humorous note, when I was a baby, I had very thin wispy blonde hair. During the Harmattan season the static electricity from the dry blowing air caused my hair to stand on end most of the time and my family fondly called me “Harriet the Harmattan cat” because my hair looked like the hair on the back of cats when they arch in fear or anger.


Writing Prompt: Have you ever spent Christmas away from home? If so, describe your experience, if not, write a fictional Christmas away from home story.

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3 Questions Wednesday With You!

jhallmarkbtoWe hope you had a wonderful holiday!

Next up, New Year’s Eve, and then–a brand, new year. We are so excited about our plans for the blog in 2017.

Yes, it’s almost here, and we’ve been talking about YOU! We want to help you even more than we have in the past. One of the ways we can help you is through online presence and publicity.

Th Writing Prompts blog has lots of Wednesday interviews to fill! That’s good for all of you writers and authors. Why?

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A few facts about 3 Questions Wednesday interviews:

The questions change every year. There are only three, so it’s quick and easy. We’ll need the following: publicity photo, short bio, book cover, book blurb, buy links, and links to you (your social media, author page, etc.).

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The Writing Prompts Crew would like to take this opportunity to thank all our participants in 3 Questions Wednesday interviews during 2016. Whether you’re an author or a reader, you helped make this a stellar year.

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Christmas from Japan to Papua New Guinea

headshot-jayna-breighBy Jayna Breigh

Long before my husband (let’s call him Bill) and I ever met, Bill seriously considered being a missionary aviator. To prepare for his possible life as a missionary he learned to fly by taking private flying lessons at a little municipal airport. He also spent a year in Japan teaching English through his denomination.

Bill spent one Christmas in Japan while on this mission and remembers it well. Christmas was not a “legal” holiday there like it is here. Banks didn’t close and children had to go to school. I asked Bill if there were decorations and gift exchanges. He said there were secular decorations—Santas and reindeer, but no gifts. As he put it, there were the trappings of Christmas without the Christianity.

image-of-wakyama

Wakyama

Bill did have a very moving remembrance of his one Christmas in Japan. He was working at a Church in Wakayama City (the capital of the Prefecture of Wakayama–yes it has the same name twice like New York, New York). Wakayama City is a seaside city in Southern Japan, about an hour’s train ride from Osaka. On top of the church was a large illuminated cross visible to boats and ships in the Pacific Ocean. A Pakistani Christian sailor saw the cross from his ship in the harbor and joined the congregation of Bill’s church for their Christmas Eve service.

It did not work out for Bill to be a missionary aviator. One of the requirements to fly (at least at that time) was that the pilot had to be married, which Bill was not. The concern of the mission’s agency was that the isolation and depravations of mission life would prove to be too severe a temptation to a single man. Flash forward to today.  Bill ultimately became a commercial airline pilot. And our family now supports a missionary aviation family in Papua, New Guinea. The husband transports medical supplies, translators, Bibles, and other goods. He also flies medical personnel into remote areas and flies sick people out. His wife homeschools their four children. If I had met my husband years earlier, this could have been my life. And just like the missionaries we support, we would have spent Christmas in a remote village, far away from friends and family, far from modern conveniences, far from American commercialism, and surrounded by traditions that are so foreign to the way we were raised.

papua_new_guinea_map

Papua, New Guinea

I took the time to look back through four years of newsletters to see how our missionaries celebrated Christmas in Papua, New Guinea. Since it is in the Southern Hemisphere, it is summertime when Christmas is celebrated. The photographs in the Christmas newsletters of our Papua, New Guinea missionaries show green grass and lush vegetation in the middle of what is our winter here.

In the states, even if someone lives in a seasonally warm state like Arizona, Christmas is still marked with scenes of Winter, songs about snow and the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. And whether one is religious or not, the basis for the celebration of Christmas — the birth of Jesus Christ — is understood. In Papua, New Guinea, it is different. There are more than 850 languages in Papua, New Guinea, the most in the world. Yet, the Bible remains untranslated in approximately 300 of them. That means in these places there isn’t even a written Christmas Story for the people to read if they wanted to.

And this is part of Christmas around the world.

Writing Prompt: He pushed send on the application for the Missionary aviation position. He’d put a name on the application in the space marked “wife.” But, he hadn’t actually given her the ring that was currently in his pocket. In fact, he hadn’t introduced himself to her yet…

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Guinea


 

headshot-jayna-breighJayna is a wife, home educator, and an attorney who practiced in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles for more than a decade.  Currently she resides in the Southeast with her husband and two children.  Jayna enjoys online word tile games and British period dramas.

Jayna has spoken at women’s retreats, led women’s Bible studies, and has taught and facilitated women’s and parenting seminars on topics ranging from sharing the faith, life skills management, and mother daughter relationships. She is also a member of the ACFW.

Her current work in progress is a Finalist in the Inspirational category of the First Coast Romance Writers 2016, Beacon Contest, and took Second Place in the Central Ohio Fiction Writers 2016, Ignite the Flame Contest. You can connect with Jayna at www.JaynaBreigh.com and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/JaynaBreigh.

My Christmas Tradition

By Betty Boyd

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My Christmas tradition is singing at midnight mass to celebrate the birth of our Savior.  Our choir starts at the end of October to begin the process of practicing for this wonderful event.

We not only practice all the sacred songs, but prepare for the Mass itself. Though the choir is very small, consisting of five men and two women, it is an integral part of the Mass.

Our church decorates for the Christmas season with a beautiful manger scene outside. As you enter through the front doors, a breathtaking sight greets you. Behind the altar are rows of artificial trees decorated with clear lights, red and white poinsettias  surround the base of the altar. Right in front of the altar is a hand carved crèche, with the baby Jesus. The parishioners stop and take pictures prior to the Mass. Little children stop and marvel at the simplicity of the crèche.

The choir starts half an hour before the actual Mass to sing traditional Christmas songs, as people enter and get seated. The lights are turned down low, so people have time to reflect or pray prior to the Mass, but turned back up as the priest goes to the altar and begins the Mass. The entire Mass lasts an hour and a half, but it’s worth every moment.

In my opinion, this is the best Christmas tradition ever. I get to participate in celebrating the birth of our Lord, serving my church, and most of all, experiencing the beauty  Christmas offers.

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Merry Christmas to you and your family.

What traditions do you participate in?  Will you pass them onto your loved ones?

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