I must begin this post by stating that I did not spend Christmas Day, December 25th, in Juba, South Sudan. I was blessed with the privilege of traveling home and spending the Christmas holiday with my family and friends. However, I spent over half of December in South Sudan and it provided me with a glimpse of their Christmas culture.
When I was planning how I would spend my time in December, Bishop Enock told me not to plan many activities in December because everything shuts down for the holidays. The ECS provincial office shut down on the 16th of December. The Diocese of Rejaf, which is not yet a full office, decided to stop working from the 19th of December. I tried to contact people in neighboring dioceses about plans in January, but they were unavailable from the 14th and 15th of December.
The Christmas season didn’t appear similar to what’s normative in the states. Except for the day I spent 3 hours waiting in Juba’s largest bank, I never saw a Christmas tree or heard traditional American Christmas carols. I didn’t see tensile, wreaths, mistletoe, lights, or other forms of decorations on houses or businesses (I think some places, however, were decorated closer to Christmas. I left on Dec 16th.)
I was able to experience two Christmas programs, both featuring children singing, one in Dinka and the other in English. At the Dinka service, a few hundred spectators gathered to watch the children dance and sing for several hours. The children changed clothes often, and performed various dances common in Dinka culture. I don’t understand Dinka, so I couldn’t interpret the meaning of the words they sung, but it appeared heartfelt and important. The English service was organized by British expats and featured the girls from CCC, where I stay. I’m accustomed to seeing the girls play games and laugh at my poor attempts to speak Juba Arabic. It was wonderful to see them dressed “smart” (the African way of saying dressed nice) while singing with pride before a church filled with expats, receiving their applause, and afterwards asking to be photographed to remember the moment.
Below are pictures from both services. Enjoy.