Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Christmas Biit

I know, I know I am almost a month behind, but better late than never!  Ha, ha! 

Christmas this year was very different than what we had ever experienced.  Of course, both places celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  But, beyond that there aren't a whole lot of similarities.  This was the first year we had celebrated without ANY other family around.  That part was probably the hardest.  Skype just doesn't quite fill in the gap, but it helps.  However, since we were devoid of the usual trappings, i.e. snow, cold, presents, family, shopping, Christmas lights on the house, it didn't really feel like Christmas to us.  It just seemed like another day and another celebration with the Marshallese people.  Christmas on Ebeye Island is spent dancing and eating at the church ALL day long.  The day started at the church around 10:00 am. with a Devotional by the District Presidency.  They shared heartfelt testimonies and their thoughts on the Savior's birth and life.  Then, the dancing began, and it didn't stop until well past midnight!. Their Christmas Celebration, or Biit (pronounced Beat) consists of several dances and songs by various groups.  Each group is allotted about 45 minutes to perform.  The morning started out with the three Primary groups (red, yellow, and purple), followed by the Relief Society sisters.  After that the youth performed, then the Young single adults, and finally combined dances for each Branch.  And don't forget there are three groups for each of the categories!  One family group also performed, the Enos family,

Biit is a very important Christmas celebration for the Marshallese.  The people here started practicing around Halloween time. So this had been their focus for the past two months.  Each group had some kind of coordinated clothing, colored shirts or matching dresses.  Some of them performed musical skits about the Christmas story for the beginning of their performance, before moving on to the dancing.  All of them were accompanied on the keyboard with a singer or two at the microphone.  There were a few vocal only songs, thrown in for variety.  Most of them also had a conductor, or leader, guiding them through their steps with a whistle.  And believe you me, those whistles are LOUD inside the building, along with the loud keyboard music and singing!  Whew me! And might I say, they love their keyboard music with that never ending beat.   At the end of each segment as they are dancing they start throwing candy and bags of chips to the audience!  I think I got beaned a couple of times when I wasn't watching!  I learned fast to pay attention.  Some kids ended up with a  pretty good haul!  We really do need a larger building because it was wall to wall packed people and dancers.  And the air conditioner could not keep up.  I think the temperature was almost to the boiling stage before we broke for lunch! Seriously! I am not joking!  I was dripping, and I wasn't even dancing.  I did start practicing with one of the Relief Society groups, but ended up missing too much with other meetings.  I was kind of wishing I had stuck in there and learned all the dances.  (I said kind of).  I guess there is always next year!

Meals were provided for lunch and dinner so there was no need to leave to feed the family.  Sandwiches for lunch, and then a cooked meal with chicken and rice for dinner. Wow, what a day!  I thought there would be no presents that day, but I ended up with a couple of necklaces, a headband, and a bracelet given to me throughout the day by some of the members.  And I proudly wore them all day.  So sweet.  I will bring those home for sure!

one of the Primary groups dancing 
another Primary group dancing

Enos family dancing

one of the Relief Society groups

vocals and keyboard for the dancers

packed crowd watching
our view from the stand

our MC!

 After spending all day inside the church, the dancing commenced after the sun went down, and after some nourishment (chicken and rice) for dinner.  The building became unbearably hot, so it was nice to go outside and watch the dances.  The youth, young single adults, and Branch dances were all outside on the concrete as those groups were too large to be inside.  The dances continued on well past midnight, but we didn't last that long.

cute girls wanting their picture taken

Youth dancing

Sister Whitney with the girls

girls posing for a picture, and they LOVE to pose!

Young single adults and missionaries dancing

Missionaries dancing away, again!

gathering for the Branch dance outside

Branch 1 starting their group dance

Conductor, leading with the whistle

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