The months of December and January are notorious for being the busiest time of the year at Amigos de Jesus. Between the posadas, Christmas, New Year's and the Feast of the Epiphany it seems like the work is never-ending, but
it is also one of the most magical and rewarding times of the year to be a staff member or volunteer here. The kids are out of school and excited for the upcoming celebrations, the home is decorated beautifully for advent all the way through the Epiphany, and there are endless activities planned to keep the kid's busy and entertained until school commences again.
We wanted to share with you a snapshot of how we spent our last six weeks together.
The Christmas Countdown Begins:
In preparation for Christmas each year, the volunteers and American staff members of Amigos de Jesus reach out to family and friends to help fundraise enough money to purchase new clothing and gifts for Christmas Day and The Feast of the Epiphany, respectively.
As part of our Christmas Countdown we took pictures with the children on different days to get our supporters more enthusiastic about donating.
For 16 days, we reached out to everyone we knew and in the end were able to surpass our fundraising goal of $4,000.00. With this money each child received a new outfit for Christmas, as well as a gift that they would later receive on the day of The Feast of the Epiphany.
The process of the multiple photo shoots were also a blast and helped get the kids really excited about Christmas. Even the "too-cool" teenagers had fun.
Thank you to everyone who helped make this Christmas and feast day unforgettable.
The Tradition of Posadas
Our Young Men Serve The Poor On Christmas Morning
A tradition commonly celebrated in Honduras is called Posada. This is when families and even towns reenact the coming of Mary and Joseph to the inn in Bethlehem.
Typically there are two groups in the celebration. The group that is outside (usually embodying Joseph and Mary) and a group within (the innkeepers.) The two groups sing
to one another, one asking to be let in and the other refusing until finally they do give them posada - or a place to rest.
Then there is a small celebration and a snack or prayer service depending on when you celebrate.
At Amigos we have the tradition of doing this each night for the week leading up to Christmas. Each dorm of kids hosts a night as well as the volunteers and school.
For the past few years our young men have taken the initiative to provide food baskets for seriously impoverished local families. They go out each year to hand out one hundred tickets that invite households to come to ADJ on Christmas Eve and receive a food basket that our children prepare for them.
The families arrive early in the morning and wait outside the gate as the young men and staff members put together a sign-in table and bring the baskets from storage. Out of curiosity, our children trickle towards the gate to watch. Greetings are exchanged and some of the children help to hand out cups of coffee to those still waiting.
It’s one of those humbling moments to witness; our children serving others.
Miguel, one of our young men in University coordinates this event with our staff each year. When I asked him his thoughts on the event, he said “It is an opportunity to give back just a little of what I have received from my home, Amigos de Jesus. I know that this is a blessing for these families and I like to see them smile.”
New Clothes for Christmas
In Honduras it is custom to give one another new clothes as gifts in lieu of toys and games. This year we added to this tradition by asking our oldest boys to help us with the process of giving to their younger brothers and sisters in the home. The young men set up the Christmas tree in the center of the dinning room, laying out all the gifts around it.
For our last Posada of advent the children walked from the school to the dinning room around 3:00 in the afternoon, singing traditional Christmas music as they made their way. After they sang the Posada song, the children entered and excitedly all found seats around the tree, surprisingly quiet.
Once everyone was seated, the gifts were handed out one-by-one.
Each child and teenager recieved clothes individually picked out for them.
The Fiesta Followed by Fireworks
After all the children received their new clothes in the afternoon, it was time to get ready for the big Christmas feast and party.
The dinning-room was set while the children got "guapo/guapa" for the night
We ate a meal prepared by a madrina and her mother-in-law. They cooked various types of pig meat, served with a savory rice and salad. All the kids were excited since we almost never eat pig.
After dinner everyone gathered in the chapel and Madrina Amy discussed the importance of Christmas and the coming of Christ. In celebration of his birth the kids all got stockings and sugar highs. After the short gathering in the chapel everyone made their way to the dinning hall that had been cleared for the dance party.
Some of the little kids stayed up as late as midnight.
New Year's Eve (Sorry, no pictures available)
New Year's is celebrated with equal importance to that of Christmas. We enjoy a large and special dinner together and then have a dance party into the early morning of New Year's Day. Five minutes to midnight all of the children and staff (who were still awake) made their way to the soccer field where fireworks had been set-up as well as a figure that looks similar to a scarecrow - this is called AñoViejo - or the old year. A symbolic reference that would soon be destroyed to welcome in the new year.
The kids took the sidelines a safe distance away from all devices to watch. At midnight on the dot Padrinos Wilson and Antonio set off the fireworks. Ending the display with destruction of the old year. As is tradition here everyone gave one another a New Year hug, the party continued until one in the morning and then everyone made their way to bed.
Celebration of the Epiphany
In much of Latin America including Amigos de Jesus children receive gifts not on Christmas morning, but on the feast of the Epiphany.
We reenact the journey of the 3 Wise Men who followed the star to find baby Jesus. Our children dress as angels, Joseph and Mary and as baby Jesus.
Adoni and Miguel- two of our University Students- and Padrino Wilson played the role of wise men.
Our children were told the story of the Wise Men and asked to reflect on what gift they will give baby Jesus this year.
"Care, respect and love" - Gerson David
"The gift that I will give to Jesus, is to continue being a good person and to take the opportunities that I am given here at Amigos de Jesus" - Fernando
"Faith, peace, love. I will take care of everything that I am responsible for" - Victor Lopez
They left these notes in front of the manger that was set up by the cross. The youngest kids colored in pictures of the wise men, while the older children wrote what gifts they would give him this year.