My daughter was all breathless last Saturday. “Did you see them, Daddy? There at the plaza. Did you?” I had no idea what had caught her interest, but it was having a big effect. “They were scary. Really scary. I don’t want to meet them again.” What was bothering her so much, in a place that is normally no more animated than with the jangling harsh cries of Coaster bus conductors crying out “Town! Half Way Tree! Come, Mamma!”
As our car approached the corner where the plaza was to our right, my daughter craned her neck. “Just check that they’re not standing by the traffic light. Please!” I looked over my shoulder as the pop-eyed child looked left and right frantically. “There! There they are! Drive!” I looked but could not see clearly what it was as I completed my turn. Little eyes were covered and the head was turned to look back at the junction.
It’s Christmas time and Jamaica still has some traditions that, though celebrated elsewhere, still have a special and different feel. This time it was Junkanoo. I could not share my child’s fear at that precise moment, but my own childhood fears came rushing back. Oh, the horse head! No! Run! Hide! I’m getting under the bed. Move! Out of my way! Don’t let them get me!
Junkanoo, seen at major holidays, was not a fun thing for a child to see. No, siree. My child, sadly for her, had witnessed Junkanoo, but the gaily coloured and noisy street festival that is held in Nassau. Nothing about that sends chill through watchers; they get chills because cold Atlantic breezes are blowing them hard. Welcome to Jamaica! Again.
I’ll let her learn about the tradition and its origins. I’m so glad that another of those timeless pieces of Jamaican life is still going–not necessarily strongly, but going anyway. Be afraid, child. Very afraid. Christmas is here.