Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving in February!

"Fascinating photos!" I mused as I poured over the pictures Charity had posted on Facebook. Charity, a graduate of Pacific Islands University, currently organizes the school's distance education site on the island of Yap. Actually, Charity's parents, who are Chuukese, left their island of Chuuk to go to Yap (an entirely different language and culture) as some of the first Micronesian missionaries. Every time Charity posts photographs, I am mesmerized. She does a fabulous job of visually capturing the essence of an event. This time was no exception; I was captivated by all the images of piles of fresh fruits

and vegetables. And, of course, my inquisitive brain was filled with questions. I began to post on her photos a succession of questions. She patiently answered each one. Ultimately, it hit me, "This would make a great blog! Our readers would love to hear about this!" When I explained my intention to Charity, she kindly obliged me by answering the following questions:

Karyn: What are you celebrating in these pictures?

Charity: We are celebrating Thanksgiving!

Karyn: In February?! How long has this been a tradition and how did it start?

Charity: This idea of Thanksgiving was being introduced by missionaries long time ago. Therefore the Churches then say that since February is when most of the crops are ready for harvest, they decided that Thanksgiving will fall on the month of February. Church leaders come up with the idea that every first Sunday of February is Thanksgiving Day.

Karyn: Does anyone celebrate Thanksgiving in November? And do all Yapese celebrate Thanksgiving in February?

Charity:  Thanksgiving in November is really only celebrated by foreigners. The February Thanksgiving is really only celebrated by those who attend one of the five evangelical churches on Yap.

Karyn: Can you describe how the church celebrates Thanksgiving?

Charity:  Our Thanksgiving celebration is more like Christmas and Easter to the Churches here. All five evangelical churches in Yap come together and share or celebrate Thanksgiving together bringing their crops or anything as
token of their thanksgiving to God. Some Americans, or people who are not from Yap, bring rice, bread or boxes of Ramen from the stores as their token of thanksgiving too. As Chuukese, living in Yap, we sew Chuukese skirts and also put them in front of the Church. The night before Thanksgiving Sunday, everyone comes and puts their crops or items in front, preparing it for the next day.

Taro back left, yams, tapioca, lemons, pumpkins, the big green oval things (front left) are
a white melon that are more like a squash, they have to be cooked in order to be eaten.

Thanksgiving Sunday is packed with people from all the five evangelical churches here in Yap.It's this day that

kids have their own Sunday school while members are enjoying special numbers, and a blessed message from a guest speaker. The service is concluded with a nice Kids program that is well planned by the pastor and all the five Sunday school teachers from all five Churches. They are to learn their program ahead of time, and in the end of the program, the kids program is being shown to the audience.

After the service, the celebration still continues with socializing fellowship as food is prepared for lunch.

When lunch is over, then the youth do the cleaning up and sweeping and then the old ladies again come in and divide the crops. People often choose first what they want from the crop display and then afterwards, the ladies would divide the crops to the old people, some goes to the people in jail, hospital, those who are sick and big amount of the crops goes also to the five churches.

Karyn: Why is that boat sitting on the table?

Charity: This was a gift for the guest speaker. This symbolizes that we are all in the same boat rowing toward our goal and that you see in the picture, what you call it?, Sail of the boat?? This represents the Holy Spirit in direct of each and every one of our lives. The ones who gave this gift must know the real meaning of the boat in relation to our spiritual walk together in Christ.

Eric and I have been to Chuuk and Palau, and we have found that being on the islands from which our students hail, adds a depth to our understanding of our students that is incomparable.  We are hoping to get to Yap over spring break and experience this beautiful culture first-hand!  I am very grateful to Charity who so openly shared her pictures and experience with us!

No comments: