(DING-A-LING) "HO! HO! HO!"
"Christmas" has a magic sound everywhere, but nowhere else on earth do people see Christmas as a high point of community giving and sharing like they do on Pitcairn. Most of the islanders are Seventh-day Adventists, and since Christmas fell on Saturday during 1982, they held their celebration on Sunday, December 26.
On the night before the Christmas festivities all the children hung up baskets outside their homes, and then went to bed. The night air soon echoed with footsteps, voices, and small bells as groups of adults filled the Christmas baskets with assorted fruits, candies, cookies, and toys.
Sunday morning literally rang loud and clear, for only on Christmas day are children permitted to ring the island's signal bells. And ring them they did―throughout the day.
Early in the afternoon the young people sallied forth with tractor and axe to cut Jasme "Christmas" trees. They brought 11 saplings to the square, dug holes, and planted them. Breaks in the pavement have been left unprepared for just this purpose. Then they strung ropes from pole to pole around the Square.
Soon the islanders came, their motorbikes and baskets laden with gifts. People tied their gifts to the trees and to the ropes around the square, while children trailed along behind them, looking for their own names. More than 500 gifts blossomed in the Square, some wrapped in commercial Christmas paper, and others not wrapped at all. Larger packages lay on the ground around the trees.
At the tinkle of a small bell and the cry of "Ho! Ho! Ho!" the children danced with excitement, for Father Christmas (Jay) distributed bags of candy to them. He then joined Ben, Dennis, Allen, Steve, Terry, Tom, and others who took gifts from the trees and ropes, shouting the names of the lucky recipients at the tops of their voices. For nearly two hours people scurried here and there in answer to the calls of the shouting "Santas," or just sat watching the children prance around as they helped to pass out the gifts.
Some of the gifts were alive! Five bags hanging from the ropes sprouted kitten's heads, for Meralda used this unique way to distribute a cuddlesome litter. And local craftsmanship showed everywhere, for many of the gifts were homemade.
By 7:30 p.m. all the packages had been given out, and the hoarse "Santas" joined the exodus as people drifted off to their own homes. They spent the evening opening gifts and eating a quiet Christmas supper with their families. Pitcairners had once again experienced the joy that Jesus promised when He said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive," (Acts 20:35).