Are you wondering why there is a Christmas tree in a tropical country? I’ll tell you, but first a little background.
The Marshall Islands are predominantly Christian, stemming back to when missionaries came and converted most of the islanders. A range of denominations exist across the country and the church plays a central role in village life. While some towns are large enough for several churches, Lukoj where I lived was tiny and had only one and my host father, my baba, was the pastor.
Christmas is a really big deal in the country and the focus is way more on the religious aspect of the holiday than commercial gift giving. At least in my town, Santa didn’t exist and kids got a new outfit for Christmas Day celebrating and that was it. BUT, our church program and feast lasted two days.
So back to the tree. The Marshall Islands are near the equator. They have palm trees–lots of palm trees, but it’s not particularly known for having pine trees. So how’d we get a tree? Well, it turns out that a connection in North America (I think the US), sent a bunch of Christmas trees to the RMI and our town ended up with one. However, they didn’t know what to do with it. I happen to wander through the church one day after teaching (as my host father was the pastor, we lived on church property), and noticed it propped up in the corner of the church waiting for Christmas. No water. Just hanging out slowly dropping needles.
I track down my baba and explain that if we want the tree to last until Christmas we need to put it in a stand (which luckily also arrived with the tree) and water it regularly. The ladies of the church decorated it and it added a festive, if slightly out of place, feel to the church.
Up Next–A Christmas program with organized dance moves