By Felix Edinborough
I can’t believe it! I really have to spend another Christmas without the usual family and friends? I did it last year, 2020, and a very quiet Christmas for one year was not too bad. I tolerated and enjoyed it as I saw it as a little different. But another year like that is unbelievable! Yet, it has to be, and I have to make the appropriate adjustments. I won’t let an invisible virus sully my festive season and I am determined to make the best of it and live life to the fullest.
I am not going to be foolish and inconsiderate visiting people or inviting others over, not with this treacherous variant raging just outside my front door.
John Milton, the poet, tells us that the mind is its own place and can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.
I will follow these words of wisdom and make a Christmas of the virus. In other words, I have decided to overcome the Delta and Omicron devils and enjoy my season of peace and goodwill. I will start with the mind and reflect on past Christmases as I have always enjoyed them in a variety of ways.
I love my parang and I have played cuatro and sometimes banjo in more than one Parang band. I started in a group we called Borrachos, and my last membership was in Warajoons, but at times I joined other groups for a night or two when I liked where they were going.
I still prefer the house Parang to competitions or clubs and shops, though I have participated in such ventures. In all, I have serenaded folks with this Christmas music from the north, at the Paramin extravaganza to house Parang in Rio Claro. Those were days of indescribable revelry. Parang dong the line!
That will be my first line of reflection: a Trini Christmas. I have also spent several Christmases away from home and native land.
Yes, I had decided to experience Christmas in homes far away, beyond the horizon, and so I have spent several Yuletides near and far overseas.
I have found myself as far as Alaska in the cold, cold north to Australia in the broiling south.
To be truthful, my stint in Alaska was not at Christmas time but during a festive season that they consider their foremost celebration of the year, and that is Thanksgiving. I arrived in freezing cold of -25 °C, and for my entire stay, the temperature remained below -20. That did not stop me from gritting my teeth and enjoying myself.
I stayed with a family and on Thanksgiving Day, the very happy family ambiance reminded me of our Christmas with the only difference being a turkey meal where at home we have ham.
My highlight of the visit, however, was when I experienced the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. The only word I can use to describe what I saw is ‘ineffable.’
I move now to Australia, where the temperature was just the opposite. It was summertime. Our Christmas lunch was with family and friends, about 30 of us in a yard under shade trees but with a thermometer hitting more than 38 °C. Phew! We ate, drank, and sang and did not think of the broiling sun.
Another Christmas in the far east, across the Pacific Ocean, was in the Philippines.
Here in a family, we had lunch at home and in the afternoon visited relatives where I witnessed the elders at the homes visiting blessing the children before they departed. The city, Manila, was a sea of colours with every lamppost so well decorated that the town looked like a Christmas tree.
Now nearer home for another season of peace and goodwill, I found myself in El Salvador. Here Christmas Day was an outing. Yes, we did not dine at home but at a restaurant, and I noticed that on the holiday, you could see families on the road all seeking eating places.
This is very different from what we do at home or even the various other countries that I visited. What struck me too was that when I awoke on Christmas morning and looked out the window, the street was covered with paper residue of firecrackers that had given the sky a glow for the entire night.
Yes, I have spent Christmas in Miami and found that, just like in El Salvador, the family dined out. We had not booked a restaurant before and had a hard time finding one that could accommodate the seven of us. It seemed that everyone was eating out.
Another festive season found me in London and the town was still, silent, and cold. There was no dining out, but we enjoyed our meals together as family.
On Christmas Eve, for the first time, I experienced chestnuts roasting on an open fire as we sat around the fireplace roasting chestnuts. A white Christmas greeted me in the morning.
My New York Yuletide was not like in Miami where we were on the road to an eating establishment, but the family, actually a Trini family, had lunch together, albeit in the mid-afternoon, at home.
This time it was not a Thanksgiving turkey but the traditional ham and pastelle together with ponche à crème. Other families must have stayed at home for the street was devoid of human and vehicular traffic.
With the mind making a Heaven of Hell, I have my wonderful memories and thank the Almighty Father for being my adviser and so, with whatever virus raging, from Alpha to Omega, I will have a Merry Christmas and I wish you the same.
Felix ‘Pierrot Grenade’ Edinborough is a retired secondary school teacher and a parishioner of St Anthony’s, Petit Valley.