CHRISTMAS COMES TO THE MARSHALL ISLANDS

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Day-long festivities bring young, old together

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Yokwe, Dec. 31, 2009) – In the Marshall Islands, the Christmas celebration is a unique and cherished community tradition.

Marshallese meet for church service, and then, for festivities lasting all-day, into the evening, and sometimes the early morning.

Young and old participate in special groups called "jeptas" -- singing and dancing teams representing family, island, church or club connections.

Children and youth perform diligently-practiced dances, called "biit," retelling Marshallese stories of old, while wowing the audience with their swaying and fancy footwork.

Candy and small gifts are "thrown-out" to the audience, and children scramble to gain armfuls of treats. Making fun and having fun is the all-pervading theme for these special occasions.

According to recent estimations, one-fifth of Marshall Islanders are now residing outside of the Marshall Islands. Although many now may make their homes in the U.S., its territories, and through the world, the traditional celebration of Christmas remains a centerpiece of the Marshallese lifestyle.

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