Jesus, our North Star
December 19, 2019
Joy or duty in giving?
December 19, 2019

Have an old time Christmas

Photo: Taste of Trini

Are we allowing some of our local Christmas traditions and customs to go the way of all flesh? It seems so.

There’s a great difference in the way we celebrate the holidays today and what transpired some 50 or more years ago. Materialism rather than brotherhood and love of one’s neighbour drives the way we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Whether that’s good or bad is for you to decide.

The reason for the season gets murkier and murkier with every passing year. Today, Christ’s birthday has simply become an addendum to the celebrations. More and more our Carnival celebrations seem to be invading our Christmas space. However, we carry on valiantly fighting against the odds.

I remember as a 10-year-old, as were most children back then, being deeply involved in almost all the preparation at our very humble home for the big day. If I did not, Father Christmas (aka Santa Claus) I was told, would pass our house straight Christmas Eve night.

Photo: Caribbean & Co Ltd

One task I had was to clean sorrel and ginger. Mom would prepare the mixture for ginger beer and sorrel and I had the unenviable job of placing them ‘for sun’ daily and back inside at night-time. This was a real task, but it paid off as I was able to drink a lot of sorrel! The ginger beer, not so much, because of its burning sensation.

Today, these drinks are available all year round because the drink manufacturers have put paid to that Christmas tradition.

Another aspect of Christmas that’s totally gone is the furniture cleaning. Oh, how I remember how I had to scrub our Morris chairs – scrub, sandpaper and then varnish, all in one day and then leave to dry. This task was undertaken closer to Christmas because you were banned from using the newly varnished chairs until they were properly dried.

I also had to empty the cabinet (piece of furniture) of all glassware and silverware and wash or polish them without breaking a piece and then replace them.

A kind of secrecy or surprise attended the hanging of new curtains and cushion covers. Neighbours must not know the colour of your curtains and cushion covers until Christmas Day, so that task must be completed on Christmas Eve night.

Preparation of ‘Christmas delicacies’ was another story. ‘Wuk fuh so’ – chicken, we knew well, not so much turkey; there was a pork leg or shoulder and the odd wild meat together with legumes and freshly bought provisions and pigeon peas from the kitchen garden. It was healthy all the way.

Boiling the ham in a ‘pitch oil’ pan over an open fire in the backyard with family, neighbours and friends called for a special celebration complete with rum (no whisky in those days) but no chaser. Conversations, ole talk, picong and jokes abounded.

Then there was that Guyanese delight, Pepperpot, in which all kinds of seasoned meat were all put together and cooked in a special sauce made from bitter cassava called Cassareep.

The origin of this dish, which dates back decades, was used by Guyanese hinterland workers who went into the interior of the country for days on end. No refrigeration is necessary because it lasts months. The other standard was the popular garlic pork made specially for the drinkers who always needed ‘something salt to pass in their mouth’.

As a child I was satisfied with a little car which I pushed around all Christmas, or maybe a caps gun with two rolls of caps. These toys brought enormous joy to a child.

Today, a boy looks forward to the holidays because it means a whole lot of toys, including tricycles and bicycles or the latest cellphone. Parental competition is quite evident in this exercise. The difference in today’s Santa Claus gifting is not hidden.

Parang today is a huge commercial venture, but it was born from old men serenading friends and neighbours late at night with special Spanish songs in their homes. It comprised a song asking you to open your home and having entered they would sing three or four songs and then one to leave. Their drinking was strictly regulated so drunkenness was never a problem.

Just a look at some of the old-time traditions which are being lost on the citizenry.

Anyway, to all my readers, have a Holy and Merry Christmas and a 2020 full of prosperity.