A Child Looks at a Haitian Christmas

A Child Looks at a Haitian Christmas

Tim and Diane Fonderlin – Haiti

  • “What is Christmas like in Haiti, Grandpa and Grandma?  Do people have Christmas trees and lights?”
  • “Some people do have trees while other people cut pine branches and arrange them in a container to put on their porch or outside their door.  There are big houses in the mountains that have many, many lights and there are smaller, simpler homes in the lower lying areas that might have just a few lights.”
  • “Does Santa Claus visit little people in Haiti?”
    “He does, but he is called ‘Tonton Nwel’ (Uncle Christmas).”
  • “Does he come down the chimney?”
    “No, because most of Haiti is very hot.  Usually though, young people will clean their shoes very well and put them under the pine tree branches on their porch and their parents will put fresh straw in them.  Then the young ones wait for Ton Ton Nwel to put “goodies” in them on Christmas Eve.”
  • “Do they get lots of presents?”
    “There are some little ones who do but many do not.  In Haiti, people do not mind if they do not get a lot of gifts because they are more interested in remembering the birth of Baby Jesus.”
  • “Does everyone go to church on Christmas Eve?”
    “Oh yes, it is a very special night of worship for Christians.  Even people who do not follow Jesus’ teachings know Christmas is a truly meaningful Christian occasion and they respect it very much.  Families go to church around 9:00 pm – 10:00 pm and will be there until 1:00 am – 2:00 am as they listen to special music and songs sung by both children and adults.  In some churches the children might share a play about Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds, Angels, and the Wise Men.  Teenagers oftentimes do the readings from the Bible; there will be many prayers; and the pastor shares a message of joy and love.”
  • “Wow!  That sounds nice!  What do they do after church?”
    “Ah, now they get to enjoy a “reveillon” which means “wake up” in French.  It is Christmas Eve dinner that lasts a long time, maybe until 3:00 am or 4:00 am, and has different kinds of favorite foods to eat.”
  • “Will they eat pizza or mac and cheese?”
    “Ummm…not those exact foods but they will have other tasty dishes such as fried chicken, fried plantain, pikliz, rice and beans and maybe even a cake or sweet potato pudding.”
  • “Those sound different.  Do you like them?”
    “Oh yes, they are very good.  We really like pikliz because it is like cole slaw but very spicy.”
  • “What do they do after they eat?”
    “Now the fun times begin for the kids because on this night they are permitted to go out from their homes without their parents.”
  • “All by themselves?”
    “Well, not the younger one, they have to go with a bigger brother or sister.”
  • “What kinds of things do they do?”
    “Oh, they might play games with their friends such as soccer or jumping rope.”
  • “What do their moms and dads do?”
    “They spend time talking with their family and nearby neighbors and everyone stays awake until the sun comes up!”
  • “Can we do that Grandpa and Grandma?”
    “Well, we don’t know about staying up that late but you know what we can do?  We can get your shoes, clean them up, put straw in them and put them under the Christmas tree.  Then we’ll wait and see if you have surprised Santa into thinking he is Haiti!  Would you like that?”
  • “Yeah, let’s do it right now!”



Haitian Sweet Potato Pudding


1 cup brown sugar
½ cup butter, softened
2 ½ cups hot cooked sweet potatoes, mashed
2 eggs, well beaten
3 T. shortening
½ cup milk
1 T. flour
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.


  1. Mix together brown sugar and butter and spread in 1-quart casserole; set aside
  2. Mix sweet potatoes with well-beaten eggs.  Add shortening and milk, mixing thoroughly after each addition; set aside.
  3. Stir together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.
  4. Add to mixture, beating well.  Pour into casserole lined with mixture of brown sugar and butter.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for approximately one (1) hour.

Serves 10.


Tim and Diane Fonderlin are members of Howland Community Church, Warren, Ohio.  They are serving a 4-year term with the National Spiritual Council of Churches of Haiti (CONASPEH) and live in Port-au-Prince. Tom works as a Sustainable Community Development and Micro-Credit Consultant and Diane is teaching theology at St. Andrew Theological Seminary and is also Co-Administrator of the Seminary. Their appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples’ Mission Fund, Our Churches Wider Mission, and your special gifts.