Christmas overseas

The Watson, Moody and Creighton families

Some of our mission partners share what they’ll be doing on Christmas day:

‘Gothenburg is officially the ‘Christmas City’ so you may well be expecting our Christmas Day experience to be the ‘Christmas Number One’ and the envy of all…! 

Emily, Alice and Grace Watson in Liseberg

In the race to Christmas day, we certainly make a promising start. With the first Advent candle, that’s lit in almost every home, the scents of cinnamon, saffron and toasted almonds fill the air around the city’s many Christmas markets. By the second candle, Lucia celebrations have begun to whet the appetite for traditional Christmas buffets. From dinner boats on the Göta to the restaurant on the 23rd floor of the Gothia Towers hotel, the ‘Julbord’ will be spread with roast ham, pickled herring and anchovy pie. The third candle raises expectation to a crescendo as a choir sings carols in Kungsportsplatsen square to festive shoppers.

Then finally the fourth Advent candle lights our way to the day we’ve been waiting for. Except it’s not Christmas Day … it’s Christmas Eve! Christmas Eve will be our ‘big day’, as it is in many countries outside the UK. Together, we’ll enjoy our family ‘Julbord’ Christmas buffet, before the traditional Christmas television broadcast at 3pm of … no, it’s not Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, it’s Donald Duck! Presents will be exchanged and for younger children, Jultomten, the Swedish Santa Claus, can even personally make the delivery.

We think of our Advent candles as bright signposts, lighting the way to our celebration of the coming of Jesus as the Saviour of the world. But just as Christmas Eve celebrations can feel a little as if we never quite get to the promised destination, so in Sweden today, with all of the Advent candles, the majority never quite get to Christ.

But then that’s precisely the reason that we’re in Sweden, to proclaim Advent’s ‘destination’ - the eternal Son of God, who came as one of us to live the life we fail to live and die the death we deserve to die, so that by faith we could receive him, not just for Christmas … and not just for life … but for eternity!’

Find out more about Trevor and Andrea’s ministry in Sweden.

‘In Uganda at Christmas time we do not have snow and in most places the sun is shining brightly, as the dry season has started. At this time, families want to be together - not just the nuclear family but extended family too. 

Joy, Eunice and Andrew Moody enjoying Christmas lunch

On Christmas morning we have to get up early - the English language service starts at 7.30am! Santa does not come to Uganda. People do not usually give and receive presents in Goli. Instead people will try to buy nice clothes for themselves and their family that they can wear on Christmas Day. In church there is a special Christmas collection that helps to pay the pastor’s salary for the year ahead. 

After the service people will have a good meal - usually the best meal they have all year. Some will have meat and those with a bit more money will have chicken. This might be the only time in the year they will eat chicken. In our house we usually have chicken with stuffing, potatoes and plenty of gravy. We make sure we have nice chocolate to open on Christmas Day. 

On the Sunday before Christmas, the evangelism team will visit the local prison to take some small gifts to all the prisoners. On Christmas afternoon there is a special service in the health centre. Afterwards we share tea and biscuits with the patients and sweets with the children.’

Find out about Andrew and Eunice’s work in Uganda.

'Our family has lived in Nigeria for seven and a half years. My dad, Rick, lectures at a seminary for people who want to become pastors.

Jack, Alanna, Rick, Connor and Asha Creighton with their friend Nyella - all wearing their Nigerian Christmas Clothes

For Christmas in Nigeria, we start December by putting up decorations. At this college most people can’t afford Christmas decorations, so not many other people have them. When we put up our decorations everyone loves to see them.

In the UK and Ireland, there are traditions like stockings, advent calendars and such. In Nigeria there are different traditions. For example, the main highlight for people here is 'Christmas Clothes'. Every year, if they can afford it, people get their Christmas Clothes made from beautiful Nigerian cloth.

In the West we make mince pies and Christmas cake. In Nigeria, people make chin chin and Christmas meat. Chin chin is a nice biscuity thing that is kind of a mix between a biscuit and a crouton. Christmas meat is beef that has been boiled with spices and then fried. It tastes amazing!

On Christmas Day our family starts the morning with Western traditions. We check our stockings and then we go to the Nigerian Christmas Day service at the seminary church. Most people have travelled for Christmas so there are not very many people there. Normally the church is bursting with 500 people but at Christmas there are just 40 of us. We have a Nigerian meal of Jollof rice and salat (coleslaw) before going home to start making Christmas dinner which we will share with our American neighbours and some Nigerian friends.'

Asha is 11 years old and lives in Nigeria wither her mum Alanna, dad Rick and brothers Connor and Jack. Find out more about them.