Noel in Haiti
My dream around Christmas is to be in the Dominican Republic for Noel. Last year, passing through Santiago en route to New York, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Noel in the Dominican Republic was a spectacular affair, with fireworks at each corner and a desire to enjoy felt by anyone present due to the communal bacchanal spirit.
This year my Christmas is in Haiti. I am nursing my father of 99 years old who just lost his wife of 100 years old. You may recall in my essay “The art and the process of a long life” I warned my sisters not to give a big fiesta to my mother. It is a sure way to send her to the eternal life.
My prediction did happen. My mother passed away some six months after her last birthday. May those who care to learn, do!
The night before Christmas Eve, I was woken up by fireworks at midnight sharp in my neighborhood. I went out to seek the spirit of Noel. At the small plaza near the giant Natcom building (Natcom is the new national/Vietnam phone carrier that tried to dispute with Digicel the first place in the hearts and the minds of the Haitian people) a group of socialite ladies were putting the finishing touch in decorating the park with Christmas ornaments.
To my query as to who is sponsoring such a Christmas manifestation, the lady in charge told me it was a mayoral initiative. It is time that Haiti starts smiling again, she said. President Michel Joseph Martelly is full speed ahead, circuiting the country, delivering cars and mottos to lucky winners seeking to establish the Christmas spirit. Eleven million dollars has been provided to mayors in the different cities of the republic for the traditional popular bouillon made with yellow pumpkin, and for cleaning the streets and the sewers.
The Haitian superstar cum politician Wyclef Jean is in town, adding his touch to the Christmas spirit by providing a free concert on the main plaza of the capital still encumbered by the refugees of the earthquake of January 12, 2010.
The plaza of the bucolic suburb of Petionville, disencumbered by the refugees, is the focus of the village of the artists with chefs-d’oeuvres that set Haiti as the premiere destination for pieces of art that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
The children of Haiti are the most fortunate ones in the world around Christmas time. If they miss their Christmas gifts during Noel they have another chance one week later on January 1. It is a tradition in Haiti to give gifts to the children on Independence Day, which is January 1.
Christmas in Haiti, as in the rest of the world, is a festive moment made of religious manifestation mixed with bacchanal spirit. I went on the town seeking both.
Haiti, after 60 years of illiberal governance, is slowly realizing it has the right to enjoy happiness as such. In my meander through the town I did not find the exalting spirit I found in the Dominican Republic last year.
The fervor was more ardent at the church where the Catholic service took place at midnight commemorating the coming of the man made God, who came to redeem mankind for his state of sin. Christmas came this year on a Sunday (it will come again in 2016), as such the day service was as full as the midnight one.
Noel in Haiti is Christmas without snow, without pine-trees and with a sky bright and filled with stars. It is the dawn of an era, where perhaps 10 million people who went so much in pain and suffering, starting from the recent earthquake, are hoping for a better tomorrow where peace on earth and prosperity in the land will be the lot of each and everyone.
Jean H. Charles MSW, JD is executive director of AINDOH Inc. a non-profit organization dedicated to building a kind and gentle Caribbean zone for all. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol.