So what does Christmas look like in Central Asia anyways…. Colorful boxes under the aromatic and decked out Christmas tree? Lots of cookies and family get-togethers with a large man in a red suit trying to get down the chimney? Well, if we ask our friends here, they all know the name “Santa Claus,” and they say it with such drawn out performance, but the winter holiday here doesn’t include him.
Central Asians have a holiday that pre-dates Islam, called Shabe Yalda, which means night of birth. It occurs on the longest night of the year, winter solstice, which is on the 21st of December. The holiday has been celebrated a myriad of different ways, but one interesting tradition we learned was that on this night of birth, the kings would often trade places and become like a lowly, small, insignificant poor person on that night.
Many of our friends take advantage of the longest night of the year by telling stories late into the night. Fathers gather their children, and the family heads together to Grandpa’s house. There they will be greeted by other family and enjoy a large spread of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and of course, all of Grandpa’s great stories. It is a warm time with everyone together, huddled under blankets and enjoying the warmth of time with family.
We pray that you and your family have an absolutely great Christmas this year. Remember Jesus who was born a seemingly lowly, small, insignificant child. Tell stories with family. Enjoy each other and the great things that God has given you.