Christmas Eve on Easter Island

PAT SALBER and DOV MICHAELI

Brian’s Note: Our friends Pat & Dov are genuinely intrepid travelers and adventuresome souls. In their most recent excursion, they’ve spent the last several weeks in the southern regions, including a trip to Antarctica, and now Easter Island. Here’s a report on a Christmas service last night on Easter Island that’s worth sharing.

Pat wrote:

We had an incredible Christmas eve…hardly any restaurants on Easter Island were open, but we heard about a new one called Miro.  Turns out yesterday was their first day open and we were there first (and as far as I can tell only) clients.  Food was terrific and people were very nice – they even had a cute dog.  Then we went to church!  Midnight mass started here at 9:30 pm.  The Easter Island Catholic church has incorporated a lot of traditional Rapa Nui features – so Jesus has a bird on his head and one of the statues was actually a bird in Saint’s clothing.   The service started with a reenactment of the Nativity story – performed by the town’s children.  Everyone in town seemed to have a part in the service – reading from the bible, changing the projected song lyrics, singing.  We were seated with the “orchestra” – two accordians, a guitar and some banjos.  The music was magical (think Hawaiian-like) and the singing incredible – top of their lungs — with joy.  The church was packed and everyone was having fun.  It was a mixture of Catholic (with incense), Unitarian (with hand-holding and wishes of Pax) and Rapa Nui (all songs in the native language).  Truly a wonderful experience.  Merry Christmas!

And Dov added:

The incredible joy and singing at full throat was a wonderful surprise; we had planned to leave after half an hour, but were sort of disappointed when it ended at 11pm. To me the most touching moment was when a member of the congregation with Down’s syndrome, all decked out like an angel, including wings, was called to the stage to read his part. He stumbled a bit and it looked like it was going to end as an embarrasing moment for him. Then the audience erupted in a long and enthusiastic applause, and the whole episode turned into yet another joyous moment of their celebration. Their acceptance of ALL people, without the slightest regard to their handicap or station in life was totally amazing. Right at the beginning a young, disheveled guy stood up in front of the stage. He made a sort of a Nazi salute and gave a thumbs down to the Jesus on the cross. A woman seated behind us, obviously one of the congregation’s leader, told him in a commanding voice ‘ Jorge, get out of the way and and go sit down’. The young man tarried a bit, closed his eyes and bowed to the cross, and then sat down. The man was obviously schizophrenic and Pat was sure that he was going to pull out a gun and have Christmas day massacre on Easter Island – which could give a new meaning to ‘double entendre’. But to my amazement, nothing of the sort happened; a young, well-dressed woman took an empty seat next to him. It was obviously not a self-conscious act of charity; it looked completely natural, matter-of factly. A complete, uncomplicated acceptance of everybody, no matter how different. So starkly different from our more enlightened culture.

Pat Salber, MD, MBA and Dov Michaeli, MD, PhD, under-achievers both, write at The Doctor Weighs In.

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