Home » South Sudan » Celebrating Christmas with the Toposa

Women dancing and processing into the Christmas Mass at Kuron Peace Village.

There are two cows tied to the trees next to my tukul (round hut). There are some 25 chickens hobbling around the compound and squawking terribly. Five large sacks of ground-up sorghum are stashed in the kitchen. All of these are the ingredients for the Christmas meal. I thought I might give you a glimpse of a Toposa Christmas here in Kuron Peace Village.

Bishop Paride Taban (seated, left) celebrating the Christmas vigil Mass at Kuron Peace Village.

The founder of Holy Trinity Peace Village Kuron, Bishop Emeritus Paride Taban, has returned “home” after an absence of almost 18 months. He is now 87 years old, frail of body but sound of mind and spirit. He wanted to “be with his people” for this Christmas season.

The Toposa were delighted. They have no idea who the president of South Sudan is. They have never heard of the governor of Eastern Equatoria. But they sure know who Bishop Taban is, as he has brought a bit of peace to this forgotten and isolated region of eastern South Sudan. The Toposa adore him.

The vigil Mass began with the entrance of a group from a village some 18 miles away. They had walked all day long. The women were dressed in traditional skirts and wraps with beautiful beadwork hanging all over their bodies. Most of them had babies on their backs.

The children were carrying water pitchers filled with sorghum — their offering to the church. They came in the night. They came singing and dancing. Their voices rose to the high heavens. When the Eucharist was transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, these people erupted in an unrestrained display of joy and happiness.

Like King David 3,000 years ago, they danced before the Lord. They sang at a super high pitch. The catechists had to restrain them a bit, as they were getting very emotional. Finally, everyone quieted as the Mass came to an end.

Children dancing during the Mass.

Christmas Day began at 4 a.m. Animals were slaughtered, sorghum was boiled, the school was transformed into a church, and everyone was moving here and there with their tasks for the morning celebration. My role was to help prepare the altar and sacred vessels.

Then the people began to arrive. First one village, then another and another and another, until the very air molecules were vibrating with their singing, stomping, dancing and celebrating. Hundreds of people praying to God is a sight to see.

When Toposa rejoice they don’t hold anything back. The entire day they continued their praising, led by the catechists and elders. When one group would tire, another group would motivate the crowd again. Back and forth it went for several hours. The children were wild-eyed and took it all in.

Finally, the Christmas day ended and the exhausted people were fed. I don’t know how the staff did it, but like Jesus feeding the thousands, everyone got something. It was amazing to see people milling around and praising the Lord.

I am so blessed to be able to celebrate Christmas with these good Toposa people. Merry Christmas to you all and God bless you in the New Year.

With prayers, Gabe

 

Photo album

Here are a few more snapshots and a short video clip from the Christmas celebration at Kuron Peace Village.
Click on the photos and the video.

 

Gabe Hurrish
Gabe Hurrish is a Maryknoll lay missioner working in the management and administration of Holy Trinity Peace Village in Kuron, South Sudan. He previously worked with Solidarity with South Sudan at the Solidarity Teacher Training College in Yambio and in their central office in Juba.