Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas in Kipnuk

In my home village, for as long as I can remember, the Moravian Church has held a community wide gift exchange. Those who want to participate, write down their name and clothing sizes and turn it into a proffer for the church, who compiles that list and then goes around to each residence participating to have individuals pick a name to gift that Christmas. The little strips of paper would be separated into two separate coffee cans. One containing male names and the other female - females would pick from the male can and the males from the female can. It was an exciting time when these people came around - it was exciting just to see whose name you picked. The proffers kept track of which name which person picked, because with a village of almost 500 people, there were times when a participating individual didn't get gifted for whatever reason. Money for gift buying would run out or spent elsewhere.
All these gifts were brought out to the Sunday School house or the Mission house, both buildings housed next to the church. There they are grouped by families, and alphabetically. After what seemed the longest Christmas Eve program, the gifts would be ready for pick up. Kids fidgeting and growing impatient minute by minute anticipating the service leaders request for a final song or the benediction of the service. I wonder if some leaders purposely prolonged the service just for that reason.
Families attended church dragging wooden sleds to haul wrapped boxes of all different sizes. Back then, when most people in the community just had CB radios to communicate with, about 10-15 minutes after the service was over, the radio would come to life with chatter thanking their gifters and wishing everybody a Merry Christmas. Most of the usual gifts received would be clothing and useful items like a bath towels, etc.
That same night after the gift exchange is community wide caroling. Those 12 years old and older participate. Individuals meet at the church and are grouped by which section of the village they will be spreading Christmas cheer. At the houses, the whole group enters, sing a Christmas song, and the hosts would have candy to pass out to the singing group. In the houses, stockings would be hung up with care and the carolers, fill up the stockings with goodies they've been given out from house to house.
On Christmas Day, kids go on stage at church and recite individual verse readings dressed in their finest. There's also the candle light service after the readings. Its beautiful singing "Morning Star" in candle light (I don't know if the song's title is Morning Star, taking a guess on it) After the service, the church hands out candy bags to all those that have attended and gives out extra bags to other family members that weren't able to attend.
I miss Christmas in Kipnuk, I hope we'll be able to spend it out there next year.

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