A Caribbean Christmas presents some problems that don’t exist everywhere.
Many people head to church on Christmas Eve, late at night, knowing that they are going to be up way past the time when Santa comes calling at their homes. They go to what’s called ‘midnight mass’, starting at 10.30 pm, with the service just getting going when Christmas Day starts. This is the season of ‘The Sermon to end all sermons’. The theme has to be big, and bring them all to the knees begging forgiveness before they head home to see what The Bearded One has dropped under the tree. “Slackness” was a familiar theme some years ago–girls in skirts up to their necks; boys in pants down around their ankles; rude people doing bad things and thinking that a day on their knees would atone; stealing; lying; sweethearting. Bring on the Seven Deadly Sins and let’s add a few.
Then, people head home in the deep of night, and have to wake up on Christmas morning to a houseful of screaming children.
“What did Santa bring?” Rip, tear, shred.
“Is that all I get?”
“That’s not what I wanted?”
“I got that last year!”
The mixed feelings that are Christmas are beginning to show early in the day. Happiness is only a smile away from fearful rows.
“Why did they have to use so much incense? Think about the asthmatics.”
“It’s time you all cut down on these services. Tooooo looooong!”
“You leave our services alone. We’re the only godly ones left.”
“I blame it on the government.”
“At least we got a government now. Your lot, took all the money and left us all with nothing to show. Bunch o’ crooks.”
The families sit and eat a hearty breakfast and love each other long enough to not bite off each other’s ears. I always like Christmas breakfast. It’s seasonally traditional: ham and eggs; coconut bread; raisin bread; special Christmas brews of teas and coffees; sorrel. Some like a little liquor early. “Boy, bring me that rum!” Grandpa needs to be kept happy.
The energy used up opening gifts is not much but it goes fast if you’ve had little sleep. Tuck in!
Men often get saddled with chores soon after if not before.
“Honey, can you assemble the bike, Robbie got? You know, I’m no good with those instructions…”
Hours later, Honey is still looking for grommet A to fit onto spindle 2. Robbie has gone back to playing with the empty box in which a new train came.
“Dearest, the kids want to try out their new i-whatevers. Just set up the modem and router for them. I can’t figure out those electronic doohickeys.”
“I get three green lights, and I see the connection, but still no Internet…Am I connected at your end?”
The kids have gone outside to play with rocks and just broke the neighbour’s window.
“Sorry, Mr. McFarlane. Daddy will come to fix it in a minute. Merry Christmas!”
We’re not yet at noon and moods are beginning to fray. We have three hours to go till dinner with the family. How many people will be there? “I hear about a hundred.”
Time to head to beds and take a nap. The day is hard in the land of the baking midday sun. The cool breeze of the morning has already given way to a rising heat. “It’s so hot!” Soon, silence reigns. For a few hours, calm will prevail. Energies restored and ready for the real fray. The arguments over Christmas dinner can be fierce. In The Bahamas, a peculiar ritual starts to shape up as people pre-position themselves for the coming Junkanoo parade.
“Who’s going to win?”
“Only one group in it, man.” Saxons. Valley. One Family. Roots.
“What’s the best theme?”
“What song Sting got out this year?”
Why they start Junkanoo so late? [After midnight.]
“The weather’s looking inclement. Better put the parade back a few hours. Start at 3 in the morning. Makes sense.”
“Those judges. All of them crooked, eh. They’re going to rob us, again.”
“Ain’t crooked. You-all don’t have any music; can’t dance. When you start practice? Last night? Cha!”
Dinner hasn’t even been served yet and the ripples are beginning. Blood won’t flow and voice will only rise a few decibels. Blows won’t be struck, but tongues will lash. But, the focus shifts as the smells become stronger from the kitchen and the clatter of dishes and trays start to compete with the voices.
“Oooh! Look at the turkey! Wow! That ham has a glaze, eh!”
“Where’s the peas and rice? Macaroni coming?”
“Baked beans coming? I hope so.”
Let your meat stop your mouth!