Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Huwo vivi (New Year)

New Year is "Huwo Vivi" here locally.  They have a really fun custom on our island of doing New Year's caroling.  Christmas caroling from house to house isn't a thing, but caroling from village to village following the new year is.  They have a whole selection of songs in all sorts of languages (most of which are in their own) about the New Year and being thankful to make it through another year of life.  They are a bit more reality based on the brevity of life than Westerners are I think.  And for good reason too, without the kinds of life-extending healthcare and lifestyles we enjoy.

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(The smilebox here is just pictures.  If you want to hear a bit of singing, watch the short video clips below.)

The singing and process is pretty fun.  They enter the village and sing on the march, stopping every so often to sing a song or two in place.  This isn't anything rehearsed, they're just songs everyone knows.  The host village is expected to provide a bit of produce to the group and Koolaid/cordial to drink when they've finished their rounds.  They stop at a key place in the village, and sing a few more songs, then sing a farewell song.  The host village sings farewell back, and everyone hangs out together for an hour or several hours.  Quite a few of the songs are special favorites because they are conducive to dancing.  The dancing is really more of stomping, and the group huddles up into a circle for it, with youth boys in the middle, holding a big stick.  There are also some shout exchanges of "Hip Hip!" and then "Hooray!" and "two thousand!" and "sixteen!".  (Hip Hip Hooray took me some time to work out though that it was actually English.  It sounds more like "heap heap" and "who rrray" which to you Aussie's probably is quite natural other than the trilled r, but it's WAY different than American English).

Last year the only New Year caroling was the village kids going around the village the night of January 1.  This year was a full program though with one village walking through the night to come sing for us in the morning.  Our village of Ranvetlam is the furthest to the NW and their village of Wilit is the furthest to the NE so they walked for hours and hours.  Pretty impressive.  Another group came all the way from West Ambrym (a different language group than ours) on a boat to sing.  Another group (from another different language area) from SE Ambrym was going to come, but had to cancel due to political campaigning.  The national parliament was recently dissolved because the majority of the members were imprisoned this last year, so Vanuatu is scrambling to get new leadership in office ASAP.  This is certainly something for prayer for leaders who truly represent the best for their people, and make wise decisions.  Elections are the end of this week.  The plan is for SE Ambrym carolers to come next year, and that will be reciprocated by our village as well.  Several other closer villages also came this year, and a group from our village walked around to carol in multiple villages as well.

In the pictures and videos you'll notice everyone is dusted liberally with baby powder.  Another part of the caroling seems to be that those who are performing are to be powdered by their relatives in the host village.  The powder dumps freely and performers, especially those on the outside of the singing circle, are fairly white by the end!  Some people are given cloth as well, wrapped around their shoulders to use as a tablecloth or as material for a shirt or dress.
Happy 2016 from Ambrym, Vanuatu!!

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