Part 7 – Christmas Time

This seems a good place to describe Christmas since it’s Christmas time now in 2020.

At Christmas time we enjoyed similar food like what’s on our Sunday menu, with the added things like macaroni pie and homemade cake. It was the only time we had a case or 2 of soft drinks(soda). We got a whole 12 oz soda to drink by ourselves and did not have to share with each other. We even bought these non-alcoholic drinks called “Cydrax’ or “Peardrax”. We got apples and sometimes grapes. Later when I was in my late teens, I remember we would have the nuts that you have to crack like we have nowadays.

On Christmas eve, Mama would make these cakes with the eggs from our chickens and it was the best tasting homemade cake. I tried making this cake here but it never tastes the same because of the eggs. The yellow of the eggs we had was much more yellow than the ones I have bought in the past in the grocery store here.

Does anyone remember a baking drum?

Before we had a stove mama used to bake in this baking drum. My father had to cut it out. I found this picture on the internet.

It was similar to this except it only had one section cut out to bake in – not 2 layers like this one. At the bottom is what you call a coalpot. This was used for cooking in the older days. You load it with coals and light it up. At the top of the drum we used coconut shells and wood to light a fire. So, this was done in the yard and not indoors. Of course, I was very small when we had this. We just had a table top gas stove and when I was around 13, we got a gas stove with an oven similar to modern times.

Christmas throughout the years changed. In my teenage years I remember this great fruitcake that mama would make. You had to soak dried fruits like raisins and mixed lemon and lime peel in wine for a few days before you made the cake. I think people add other kinds of alcohol to make.

Treat Day

I remember being very happy at Christmas time. In elementary school we had “treat” day. On the last day of school before the holiday season was a great day at school. You get to wear a dress instead of the standard uniform and the school would give each student this brown bag with the following – an apple, a balloon, a squeaky little finger toy that made noise when you press it and 1 candy. Sometimes there were students who were absent quite a lot but they would show up on treat day. Lol. Apples were a treat because it was imported and not affordable by many people.

Caroling

The members of the church would come around caroling in and it was fun to see them sing the Christmas carols. My mother liked it and would give them a few coins as a donation but my father of course did not like it. We all learned carols and was always singing at home. Throughout the Christmas season the two radio stations played a lot of Christmas music and most people on the island always had their radios on. Besides American Christmas classics there was parang music and local calypso type Christmas music. You would find yourself humming around the house “Silent night”, “I’ll be home for Christmas”, “the 12 days of Christmas”, “Parang, parang, parang”, “Drink ah rum and ah punch ah creamer” (lol) and many others. I loved Christmas time.

Toys

We did not grow up with a lot of toys since money was scarce but I do remember getting a plastic tea set on two different Christmases. Mama would ask me what I want and I did not know what to get because we did not know the array of toys that the stores carried. It would appear Christmas morning on the net(we had a net to keep out mosquitos over the bed). She said Santa Claus brought it but I had doubts. I enjoyed putting soda and cake in that set and eating and drinking from it. My sisters could have gotten similar and also dolls. My brothers could have gotten a toy gun and sack or a little truck or car. Sean says he remembers getting toy soldiers.  As I grew older it was fun stuffing all kinds of stuff into the sock that my smallest brother Sean would hang up for Santa Claus to fill. He believed and it was so much fun.

Decorations

When my sisters and I were teenagers, we would hang up balloons for decoration. This was common among some villagers. My mother would sew new curtains and would buy a new plastic table cloth. So, the house had a different smell. It smelled of the plastic, apples and new curtains. We might put some kind of trinket on the table and everything looked and smelled so nice. Some people did cut the branches of a tree and decorated it and put the lights up. We did not have a Christmas tree until I was about 21 years of age and working and able to buy one. The house would be so sparkling, so new, smelling so great. It is one of my most cherished memories of Christmas.

So, it was a beautiful time but there were some disturbances. Throughout the years my father would sometimes come home drunk and pull all the new curtains down and quarrel. Our Christmas mood would be gone. Tears would come to my eyes. My mother worked so hard to make it a wonderful Christmas.

The time I drank whiskey.

My brothers were in their early twenties I was around 19 years of age. On Christmas eve or Christmas day my brothers Chunka and Toyer would hang with their friends in the village and visit each other’s house. There they would have a drink with whatever that house had to offer. It was mostly whiskey or “Old Oak” rum. They would eat fruit cake or cookies etc. Some of them would play a guitar, hit a bottle and spoon(to make music) and they would sing parang and have a merry time. They would also sing “we wish you a Merry Christmas”. So, you could imagine that after visiting a few houses they would eventually have one too many. That was there way of enjoying Christmas.

I remember one year, the girls in the village who were really the sisters of my brother’s friends did something similar. We just went to Droee’s house (a cousin that lived next door) and we had whiskey with coconut water added to it. (That was a favorite drink on the island). I had never drunk alcohol so only after one or two drinks it was too much for me. The strange thing is I started talking with an American accent. Lol. I felt what you called “tipsy”.  I did not really like the taste of alcohol and it did not make me feel happy. In later years I did taste a beer but did not like that either. So, I never do alcohol. My brothers picked up smoking cigarettes but I never did.

Christmas times holds different memories for everyone in life as the whole world is touched by the celebrations one way or another.

Will probably write about when my eldest brother left to make his way to America and a few other occurrences. We will see what is coming:-)

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