As the holiday season is winding down we realize that we've completed another hectic but very rewarding time full of friends and family. We have family and loved ones from all across the world that travel to us during these special holidays. As you may or may not know, Northwest Arkansas (specifically Springdale, AR) has the highest concentration of Marshallese population in the country. A large chunk of the families we serve are also Marshallese. They celebrated things a little bit different this holiday season -- if you think OUR Christmas shopping and preparing starts quite early, read about when the Marshallese starts theirs!! The article written below is by our Marshallese Family Outreach Coordinator instructing us on just how they celebrate Christmas... islands style.
"Christmas is very special holiday around the world. In America and most of the world, many families spend Christmas with each other. In Marshall Islands we celebrate Christmas in the Island way. We begin to celebrate beginning in the month of September or mid-October. The reason I say this is because we start to form a Jebta (group) for Christmas during those months. These Jebta (groups) start to practice about ten or so songs and a few dances from day time to mid-morning the next day. On Gospel Sunday, which is the first Sunday in December all the Jebta gather in a church to show their parts of their songs and dances.
In 1857, a group of missionaries from Boston, Massachusetts board a ship called Morning Star to head to the pacific islands to preach the word of God. One of their stops was the Marshall Islands. This is why we celebrate Gospel Sunday. One of the other important events in Marshall Islands is 'Jabot in al' (Christmas Sunday). The Sunday before Christmas we again gather in a church to sing one or two of our songs that we have been preparing for Christmas. Finally when Christmas arrives (what we have long been waiting for) we get to show what we have practicing for many months. This year there were 12 Jebtas that took part in the 1st Marshallese United Church of Christ Christmas Celebration in Springdale, Arkansas. Each group performs what they have been practicing. We spend all day Christmas and throughout the night in our church until every group has the chance to perform.
There are two video clips I want to share are below this article. The first clip is from the Marshall Islands during Christmas Day. The second clip is in from 1st Marshallese United Church during Gospel Sunday.
Also, I want to share the following link to an article that also helps explain how the Marshallese celebrates Christmas. Click here to read: Marshallese Signature is the Christmas 'jebta' Dancers
Hope you enjoy"
-- Albious Latior, Marshallese Families Outreach Coordinator for Arkansas Support Network
Staff of the Family Support Program (including original content as well as curated links to various authors around the web.)