Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas at Hmong New Year with the Buddhists and Khmu!

Christmas in non-Christian countries is certainly different.  The uptake of certain Christmas traditions, even here in Laos in a profoundly Buddhist and Anamistic country, was touching – token things such as Christmas trees and decorations, making of cards, and the odd smattering of Christmas cheer with a heartfelt ‘Merry Christmas’.

GVI volunteers celebrated in some very special and unique ways in Luang Prabang.  On Christmas Eve four lucky volunteers headed out to Ban Luk Sip – a mostly Khmu village about 10km away from town – to teach English and play with the children of the village for the morning.  This week they were making Christmas cards, which although odd was warmly embraced and enthusiastically carried out.  Afterwards we took some Christmassy photos and said farewell for another two weeks. 

Following this our volunteers had the honour of an invitation to a largely Hmong village, where families were celebrating Hmong New Year and the calling back of the body’s spirits.  Much chanting by the shaman, clucking of chickens (and their ultimate demise in ritual bleeding, boiling and then fortune telling), eggs, sampling ‘Hmong pizza’ and partaking in a basi (blessing ceremony) in which we were each blessed by the shaman for good health for the coming year.  Although a feast was prepared, we had to be off to our next engagement....
Mr Nii and GVI staff Sam

GVI hosted a Xmas Eve party at a Lao-style BBQ restaurant, spreading the season’s cheer with our Lao colleagues – all who make a vital contribution to the project....from teachers to school directors to our drivers and guest house owners.  The meat sizzled, beer and wine flowed, and much merriment was enjoyed.  Secret Santa gifts were swapped amongst volunteers and our valued GVI partners received a small gift of thanks. 
GVI-hosted dinner with teachers

Christmas Day was celebrated by volunteers in their own ways – some heading back to another Hmong Village for day 2 of celebrations (where the spectacle of traditional garb is a sight to behold), one doing a weaving course, lunch cruises on the Mekong River, and parties and feasting at various venues around town.   I think it’s fair to say it was a Christmas with a difference, but a wonderful weekend all the same and some very special memories of the closing of 2011.