This article was written by Ann Hibbard. Ann is a missionary kid, pastor’s wife, second generation homeschooler, editor, and mom of three. She loves encouraging and equipping others, especially women in the ministry and homeschooling communities.
Most of us have favorite Christmas traditions and memories we can share. We build them based on family and community culture, then personalize them along the way. Our International Mission Board (IMB) missionary families find that the influence of family and community culture is expanded even more as they also incorporate the traditions of their adopted countries.
For Mike and Jennifer Brumgardt, this expansion of traditions was birthed in 1999 when, as members of Immanuel Baptist Church in Rogers, Arkansas, they first responded to the call to missions. After several years of training and language study, they were appointed as career missionaries to the Americas in September of 2003.
After serving for over a decade in Mexico, the Brumgardts transitioned to Bogota, Colombia in July of 2016, where Mike now serves as cluster leader of teams in the six largest cities in the Americas: Bogota, Colombia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Lima, Peru; Mexico City, Mexico; Santiago, Chile; and Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Even while enjoying their own American family traditions, the Brumgardts have come to love incorporating Colombian Christmas traditions into their celebrations. One of these favorite celebrations is the annual Welcome Christmas party. Although the parties are not hosted until the end of November, many Colombians take advantage of a mid-November three-day holiday weekend to begin preparations by decorating their homes.
A Welcome Christmas party always begins with arequipe, a goat’s milk caramel (called cajeta in Mexico). Next, the families and guests work together to prepare and fry buñuelos, small cake-like dough balls served with a flan-like treat called natilla.
Of course, no Christmas celebration is complete without a warm beverage. In Colombia, favorites include tinto (a beverage that resembles coffee), made-from-scratch hot chocolate, or aromatica (Jamaica leaves boiled in hot water).
Families will also sing Christmas songs, and many will read passages from the Christmas story.
Welcome Christmas parties are followed on December 8 by the Catholic celebration Dia de las Veldts, or Day of the Candles. Celebrants go outside their homes and stand in parking lots and along sidewalks with lit candles to pay homage to the Virgen Maria. This celebration launches Novenas, a time of anticipation that continues until Christmas is celebrated on December 24th.
As Christians, the Brumgardts and their fellow believers see these celebrations as a great opportunity to share the truth of Christ to their unbelieving neighbors. They use the special days of celebration to gather with their neighbors, friends, and their families and find opportunities to share the truth of Jesus through the Christmas story and the singing of their favorite Christ-honoring Christmas songs.
As is the case in Arkansas, Colombian Christmas celebrations are a little strange and limited this year due to Covid-19 restrictions. As Christmas Eve arrives, pray that the Brumgardts and their fellow believers are able to find creative ways to continue to share the light of Christ with their neighbors and friends despite the pandemic and that many will come to know the hope that He brings!