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El Salvador: Christmas celebrations start early in Catholic societycomment (0)

December 23, 2010

By Mauricio Vargas

Mauricio Vargas has lived in the United States about 20 years but has family in El Salvador and visits three or four times a year, including a visit to the San Vicente region when it was devastated by floods and mudslides associated with Hurricane Ida in November 2009. While there, he participated in a memorial service for seven children and two adult members of First Baptist Church, San Vicente, who died in the tragedy. He retired as multicultural church planting specialist for the Missouri Baptist Convention but works part time as coordinator of the convention’s partnership in El Salvador, which is scheduled to end in two years. He also works part time as multicultural minister for Concord Baptist Association in Jefferson City, Mo.

In a word, the coming of Jesus Christ. In a Catholic society, the celebration of Christ’s coming starts early in December with the posadas — a nine-day festival Dec. 16–24 symbolizing the journey to Bethlehem before Jesus’ birth.

Mary and Joseph travel the streets of our city, looking for a place to rest for a night. The following day, they travel to another home and wait for the baby to be born. People sing praises during the walks, and many times, at the end of the journey, families celebrate with drinks and candies.

I remember well the coming of Christmas because the church began to prepare music, poems and different prayers where children and youth participated. I still remember some of those poems that my teacher asked me to learn. We prepared to celebrate Dec. 24 in the evening service. Our parents provided us with new clothing for the special occasion. After the service, we had tamales and hot chocolate. For me, the best part was that the people from our mission points came to spend the night with us at the church. It was an extended church family celebration.

When I was growing up, my sisters were in a Baptist college in Santa Ana. I really looked forward to seeing them coming home. Our church was the center of activities in December, and we really enjoyed being part of the Christmas plays and music. We did not receive many toys, but we always had some home cooking that my mother did, like special turkey and sweet tamales. Family has been important to me, so to see all my three sisters and two brothers was a celebration that we still have as family.

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