Christmas in Marshall Islands: Christmas Day
Christmas Day celebrations begin with an early morning church service. Then the baskets of food are exchanged. These hefty gifts, which weigh 25-40 pounds, elicit hearty thanks. People eat some of the choicest foods on the spot and take the rest home for later. At around 10:00 a.m. the people return to the church to watch the performances of the jeptas, which last the rest of the day. When a particular song, dance, or speech especially pleases members of the audience, they may run up to the stage area and grab the per-former’s headdress, flower necklace, watch, or clothing. The per-former lets them take everything but necessary pieces of clothing; modesty dictates that these be delivered later that evening. Rushing the stage to douse the performers with sweet-smelling substances such as baby powder, cologne, or pomade is another spontaneous tribute paid to thrilling acts. The performances end with a short skit at the conclusion of which the wojke explodes, scattering money and other party favors among the crowd. The festivities end with prayers and the singing of a hymn.
The day’s performances are talked about for months. The singing, dancing, speeches, costumes, skits, and gift giving will be exhaustively analyzed, and the members of the jepta that made the best display will gain status in the community.
Some United Church of Christ Christmas services include a tree-lighting ceremony that links the Christmas tree with the traditional Christian symbol of the cross. A Christmas tree is concealed inside a large, hollow cross. While the congregation sings Christmas carols, the tree rises out of the cross. The congregation greets this sight with exploding firecrackers. Then the tree descends back into the cross, while the singers hush their voices. After the singing, the cross splits open down the middle, revealing the tree standing inside.