Christmas in Marshall Islands: Last-Minute Preparations
During the last few days before Christmas, the islanders prepare by giving their homes, streets, and church a thorough cleaning. They also prepare gifts for the performers who will sing and dance on Christmas Day, including bottles of coconut oil, bags of copra (coconut), and various handmade items. Men slaughter pigs, prepare fish, and gather coconuts. Women make rice, doughnuts, bread, and put the final touches on their breadfruit paste and other foods. In addition, they sew costumes for the jeptas and weave mats and food baskets. Young boys take special responsibility for cleaning pathways and disposing of trash. Young girls help the older women with their cooking and weaving and provide childcare. At last, after months of preparation, the Christmas foods are packed into baskets which will be given away—to members of another family, cookhouse, or jepta — on Christmas Day.
In the last few days before Christmas the jeptas make special visits to the minister’s home. They sing for him and his family and give them food and presents. The minister often responds with a polite speech and gifts of coffee or tea.