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Christmas in Benin: A Celebration of Joy, Liberation, and Inner Nativity

Missionaries Encourage the Building of Inner Cribs Amidst Festive Preparations

In the heart of Benin, the festive season takes on a unique vibrancy as Christmas approaches. Far beyond the physical preparation of cribs, the missionaries emphasize the construction of inner cribs, creating a rich tapestry of joy and spiritual liberation. This article explores the cultural and spiritual dimensions of Christmas celebrations in Benin.

Festive Preparations

Father Hubert Kèdowidé, the parish priest of Buon Pastore in Cotonou, sheds light on the unique approach to Christmas preparations in Benin. While physical cribs are part of the tradition, the focus is on constructing inner cribs, symbolizing the spiritual awakening and the presence of the Nativity within hearts. The festive season sparks enthusiasm not only among Christians but resonates with many non-Christians in the region.

Missionary Insights

Father Giovanni Benetti, a missionary in Calavi, provides insights into the cultural richness surrounding Christmas in Benin. From poetic expressions to carols and traditional stories, the air is filled with the spirit of the season. Notably, the Kaléta tradition, where children adorned with masks visit homes with homemade cribs, brings a unique flair to the celebrations. Originating from Brazil and imported in the 1830s by former slaves returning to Benin, Kaléta has become a cherished part of the Christmas festivities, particularly for children.

Christmas as a Festival of Children

Father Giovanni highlights the significance of Christmas as a festival for children in Benin. Special gifts are offered to children, and community-wide events, like the celebration organized at the Brésillac Center, bring together youngsters from the neighborhood. As the days lead up to Christmas, the anticipation builds, culminating in the much-awaited Midnight Mass.

Midnight Mass and Liberation

The Midnight Mass holds a special place in the hearts of the Beninese people. It is not just a religious ceremony but a time of enthusiastic faith that can last for hours. The fatigue of the night is overshadowed by the joy and the sense of liberation from all forms of slavery. For the people of Benin, it is the night of the birth of Jesus, the liberator, the savior, and the redeemer.

Solidarity and Open Doors

Post-Mass, solidarity takes center stage. Doors are wide open, and everyone is welcome to share in food and drink. No one is left alone, and even the homeless find a place at the table, emphasizing the spirit of inclusivity and compassion that defines Christmas in Benin.

Christmas in Benin goes beyond the exchange of gifts and the physical representation of the Nativity scene. It is a celebration deeply rooted in cultural traditions, spiritual awakening, and a profound sense of community. The missionaries’ encouragement to build inner cribs resonates with the essence of Christmas – a time of joy, liberation, and the birth of hope in the hearts of the Beninese people.


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