Ole time Christmas

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Ole time Christmas

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Revitalising Catholic Culture and IdentityBy Vernon Khelawan

In less than 48 hours we celebrate another anniversary of the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Our local traditions in this regard are well known and run the gamut of music, food and house visitations. While there have been some cultural changes over the years, the culture and identity of the Catholic Church remain pivotal in the celebrations.

While the midnight Mass has lost some of its appeal, purely because of societal changes, Roman Catholics make it a point to attend Holy Mass, either at an earlier hour on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day itself, living a culture that remains resilient in the face of many challenges.

In decades gone by, authentic parang music and seasonal foods were priority, with much work expended on preparation of the home and seasonal delicacies – boiling the ham in a “pitch oil” tin in the backyard; sorrel and ginger beer out in the sun for days to “cure”; fruits soaking for the black cake; minimal outside lights and decorations and creativity galore in converting ordinary tree branches into beautiful Christmas trees – such were the highlights of the season.

But in those days it would not be Christmas if the parang bands of yore (usually three or four men with cuatros and maracs – no box base) did not make it to your house to share in your seasonal fare, while providing those beautiful Spanish songs relative to the annunciation and birth of Jesus Christ.

It would not be Christmas if the ham, garlic pork and Pepperpot (borrowed from Guyana) and the heavily liquored fruit cake, ginger beer and sorrel were missing. And while the younger generations remain apart from such hectic preparations, preferring mall shopping and office parties, the cultural identity remains intact. Didn’t calypsonian Singing Francine tell us that the reason for the season is Jesus Christ?

Catholic culture and identity therefore remain deeply imbedded in the psyche of our nation, in spite of the changes over time and the challenge to keep the reason for the season in the forefront. It shall remain that way for a long time.

In this Year of Faith there is need to revisit some of our Christmas traditions and work harder to ensure that the spirit of Christmas is not lost. To my readers, I wish a peaceful Christmas and God’s richest blessings for 2013.