With the holidays just around the corner, I sometimes find it to be a meaningful and rewarding exercise to break free of the “American Christmas” culture to explore holiday traditions from countries around the world.
Don’t get me wrong, my tree has been up for 3 weeks and I love sitting by the colorful lights early morning and late into the evening; cookie swaps, carols, traveling home for the holidays and gift giving are all things I look forward to too – but when I turn my sight outwards, it always brings something more profound to the way I understand and experience the holidays.
One tradition in Haiti that has long captured my attention is the beautifully constructed “fanal” you can find in the streets of Port au Prince in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
For those of you unfamiliar with Haiti’s “fanal”, Wally Turnbull (Creole Made Easy author) recently shared the following post in our Easy Creole Language Learning group on Facebook, it’s a great reflection on “fanal” and their place in Haiti – take a look below:
The Creole word “fanal” meaning a ‘beacon’ such as a lighthouse beacon or a ‘lantern’ like an old railroad lantern has been applied to the cardboard and colored tissue paper luminaries made by Haitian artists at Christmas. These creations are so striking and memorable that they have more or less taken over the word ‘fanal.’ I’m not sure where the tradition of Chrismas fanals began but I remember seeing more and more of them each year mostly in the Pétionville square as a child. Now they are all over as the artistry, symbolism, and tradition becomes widely appreciated.
Mwen swete ke fanal lavi ou klere byen pou Nwèl ak tout lane 2016.
– Wally Turnbull
Do you have any special Christmas/holiday traditions that light up your home this time of year? Please share below!
We at HaitiHub hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday season! If you want to learn more about Christmas traditions in Haiti, including the “fanal”, check out our “Celebrating the Holidays in Haiti” post from December 2014!
Jwaye Nòwel zanmi nou!
Written by Erin Nguyen on December 17, 2015