International (MNN) — One of the most fascinating things to learn about is how Christmas is celebrated around the world.
Orphan Outreach gets to experience this every year.
Tiffany Taylor of Orphan Outreach says, “This is a very exciting time of the year, obviously, for children all over the world. But for the children we serve that are orphans and vulnerable children, this is our big opportunity to explain to them our beliefs in Christ and Christ’s birth.”
Christmas essentially is a time to reinforce what Orphan Outreach has been teaching all year, and a time to have fun, too!
Taylor says, “In every country there is a party. In Russia, they like to celebrate with fruit, for example. Latvia, the same thing: oranges, apples, the tables are overflowing with fresh fruit. That’s something the orphans never receive, and it’s very special for them to have the fruit.”
While Orphan Outreach witnesses a variety of traditions for celebrating Christmas, they also bring their own variety of sharing the Christmas story.
Taylor says, for instance, that they hired mimes to visit orphanages in Russia and tell about the birth of Jesus and His salvation.
A few years back, Taylor went on a trip to celebrate with an orphanage in Guatemala.
“What’s special in Guatemala, of course,” she says, “are the piñatas. And the very first time that I went down there, our staff had gotten all of the Christmas piñatas–Santa and the snowmen. Well, the piñatas were as tall as a person. It was just amazing. They were so big and filled with candy.”
On the bus ride back to the orphanage, the piñatas had to be buckled in so they wouldn’t go flying on the curvy mountain roads.
“It was truly a memorable experience to be in a warm climate, tropical rainforest, having Santa Clause sitting next to you buckled in on the bus,” Taylor says.
Later, the children celebrated with fireworks–something commonly done in Guatemala for Christmas. But it was the first time the orphans had celebrated with fireworks.
“We started to set off the fireworks, and when the first one went off, they went screaming and running back into the orphanage because they were scared and they weren’t sure what it was. But when they realized what it was, it was so exciting to them, and that’s now become an annual tradition at that orphanage to do the big fireworks celebration,” Taylor shares.
Among these traditions, many children celebrate in a way that’s not so different from the rest of us. Taylor notes that across the board, the children believe in Santa and he often comes to the orphanages to bring gifts to brighten the children’s day even more.
There are many ways you can brighten a day, or a life, for these children.
Looking ahead, Taylor says, “For the new year our prayer is for each of these children to develop a personal relationship not only with their Savior, Jesus Christ, but also with people who want to sponsor these children. And right now, we have hundreds of children that still need sponsors.”
This is just one way to get involved. For $36 a month, you can sponsor a child. And it’s not just providing for their physical needs, either. You can write to the child, build a relationship, and encourage them to know Christ.
Find out more about child sponsorship here.
Another way you can help is through prayer. Taylor encourages you to go to the Orphan Outreach Web site and pray for the children by name who are waiting for sponsorship.
Also, be on the lookout for next year’s Christmas trips. They will be posted in the first quarter of 2015.