School holidays have just started and it's almost Christmas time. We can only dream of a white Christmas here in Madagascar: instead of snow we celebrate in shorts and tops on the white sandy beaches. :)
Merry Christmas is “Mirary Krismasy sambatra” in Malagasy. Christmas is mostly a religious holiday here and all celebrations are about the birth of little Jesus. Most Malagasy believe in Jesus Christ as the son of God. We believe that God sent His Son to the Earth so we celebrate the birth of Jesus as our Saviour. It is one of the greatest day in our life.
Usually few days before Christmas people who can afford go to the Christmas Markets -yess, we have Christmas markets :)) - to buy new clothes and shoes, an artificial Christmas tree and decorations (garland, christmas ball…). Also this is the time to find the perfect Christmas gifts for our family and of course to buy food and loads of alcohol.
For none-religious people Christmas is just like a day when they can drink and party for a few days. For Christians it is more a family holiday. On Christmas Eve we all go to the church.
The Christmas mass starts at 5.00pm and only ends after midnight!
Different groups in the church, especially children sing Christmas carols and perform plays. We also go to Church on Christmas Day as well. After Christmas Eve and Christmas Day service, churches give out sweets or biscuits to the people in the Church. On Christmas Day people (even strangers) greet each by saying 'Arahaba tratry ny Noely' which means 'Merry Christmas'.
Just like everywhere else, family members come home to spend Xmas together. The dinner is one of the most important event. We dine in a large groups and dress up in our best, preferably new clothes. The food on the Christmas table is usually better then the everyday meals: chicken or duck with rice followed by a special cake taken over from the French, the Buch de Noël (Yule log). A special Christmas food in Madagascar are fresh lychees, which are bought from shops and street sellers, fresh from the trees. The streets get covered in lychee skins this time of the year.
Akoho sy Voanio (Chicken in Coconut Milk)
1 kg chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon rind, grated (optional)
salt (to taste)
black pepper (to taste)
cayenne pepper or red pepper (to taste)
cooking oil, for frying (coconut oil if possible)
2 onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp ground ginger (or one teaspoon fresh ginger root, minced)
1 cup cup coconut milk
In a glass dish, marinate the chicken in the lemon juice, lemon rind, salt, and pepper for about an hour.
Heat oil in dutch oven or any large covered pot. Sauté the onion and garlic for a few minutes. Add the chicken and continue to cook and stir until the chicken is nearly done. Reduce heat. Add tomatoes and ginger and stir for a few minutes.
Add coconut milk and simmer over low heat until chicken is fully cooked and sauce is thickened. Stir often. Serve over Rice.
In Madagascar people like to give each other Christmas gifts. Poorer families, however, may not be able to afford buying gifts, so they make them or do without. Christmas is a time of doing good to others. Here in Diego and in its surroundings things are a bit different and it’s great because IT IS A MUST TO GIVE GIFT TO YOUR CHILDREN! :) Most of the families do not have christmas tree in their homes because it is too expensive (around 150.000 AR or 40 eur) so parents hide the present under the kid's pillow. Kids are super happy during that time because that is propably the only time of the year when they get some toys, sweets or even a nice new dress.
Although we do not have pine trees in Madagascar, but one of the traditional christmas flower, the poinsettias can be found everywhere! In fact they grow as large outdoor shrubs in Madagascar and don't just flower at Christmas! They are also the national emblem of my country.