Immanuel – “God is with us” celebrated despite pandemic
In the US, most Christmas celebrations are generally concentrated into one day – December 25 – and perhaps the evening before.
In sharp contrast to this, what the Dominicans celebrate is a “Christmas Season” that stretches from late October and carries through December 25, concluding in the New Year on January 6!
The Dominicans have wonderful traditions to celebrate Christmas which center around families and remind us of Immanuel – “God is with us.”
The season’s preparation starts as early as October, culminating in a special family dinner on Christmas Eve, often complemented by community fireworks and large family celebrations. For Christians, the focus is – God has come and is with us and He places us in unique families – biological or adoptive – for which we are thankful.
The season concludes with King’s Day (known in US churches as Epiphany) on January 6, marking the arrival of the Magi who brought gifts to baby Jesus. This day is marked for children to receive presents from their parents. Since many live in small homes, making it hard to hide gifts, parents shop the night before and shops remain open till midnight.
The pandemic and Kids Alive celebrations
COVID-19 diluted all our plans for 2020. The hardest was the decision to forgo our usual Christmas celebrations at all sites. This is an especially bad blow for our school kids now distance-learning from their homes. The government issued an advisory that family gatherings be limited to a few and the traditional Christmas eve dinner downscaled to a lunch.
One bright spark, under stringent COVID-19 protocols, our three homes – Ark Constanza, Ark Jarabacoa and Casa Monte Plata – will celebrate “Noche Buena” in traditional style, complete with a dinner on December 24. Keeping with the tradition, King’s Day celebrations will be celebrated with children exchanging gifts.
Celebrations at the seven Kids Alive schools will be more muted. Typically, December events at all schools include the Christmas pageant to both showcase the kids accomplishments and witness to the children’s parents, and an employee appreciation dinner. Since large gatherings are prohibited, there will be no pageants and worship with parents. Instead, each school family will receive a special Christmas dinner package as well as a Christmas family devotion. This will ensure that God’s love is still shared in a tangible way with our extended Kids Alive family.
In total, we plan to distribute around 1,000 special Christmas meals and devotions. We are grateful to our COVID-19 Relief and Treat Fund supporters who make this practical demonstration of God’s love possible.
Even though this is not how we envisioned Christmas 2020 celebrations, we are excited to celebrate Immanuel – God being with us – even, or perhaps especially, during this pandemic.
Merry Christmas to all our supporters!
Kids Alive Dominican Republic
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Kings’ Day is eagerly anticipated at Casa Monte Plata and sometimes the Three Kings even show up! The children on the residential campuses receive gifts made possible with your generous Treat Fund donations. Usually the schools hold a special day to celebrate the kings’ arrival to worship Jesus, with an assembly and a gift for each child. This year we hope to deliver a gift to each home as most families struggle to purchase food, much less a toy.
Christmas is a special time on our residential campuses with joyful play and bonding. This year is going to be even more special since the house parents will stay on the campus, forgoing contact with their own families to ensure quarantining and children’s safety. Safety - true heroes and the heart of our ministry
La Noche Buena or the Christmas Eve celebration centers around a family dinner with local delicacies such as “pasteles en hoja” (tamales wrapped in a banana leaf) and “ensalada rusa” (potato salad). This year Kids Alive will provide all our school families a special bag of food, including a chicken, for their Christmas Eve dinners, in addition to the COVID-19 relief food rations to the neediest families.
Usually, all classes at the seven schools prepare a song or drama for the Acto de Navidad, or Christmas pageant. The students gather in an assembly and celebrate Jesus’ birth. This year students and families will gather with devotions, WhatsApp messages, and perhaps zoom gatherings in celebration of the miraculous event.