The voice of Bing Crosby streaming through the airways singing “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas with every Christmas card I write…and may all of your Christmases be white” is usually a sure sign that the Christmas Season is approaching once again. But, even while this song is heard on Caribbean airwaves or by those from the Caribbean Diaspora, another tune rings out: “Home for Christmas”.
It is that ongoing chant that keeps part of the Caribbean Christmas culture going; that of returning friends and family who return, aka ‘fly in’, from countries abroad to their original homelands, what they dream of on that flight might well depend on their Caribbean isle destination. Some of the shared Christmas dreams though would include that of not a white, but a blue-green Christmas of sun, sea, and sand. Also included would be the cream and red for the popular ginger beer and sorrel drinks which form part of traditional Christmas beverages in many islands. Then add to that too the longing for black cake and pastelles, ‘paranging’ friends’ homes…that expected Christmas visit where good company, cheer, food, and drinks are shared, general Christmas parties and limes, and all the decorated homes, parks and buildings throughout the island. So when we hear sounds like “Ma Ma I’m coming home for Christmas” it is no wonder why.
Throughout the Caribbean and wider world, we have heard of the woes of Haiti. Yet home is where the heart is. Like other Caribbean nationals, Haitians know that when it comes to home, we take the bad and ugly with the good. Some of the good that calls and comforts one at home for Haitian Christmas includes the cutting of pine branches to serve as Christmas trees or going to the market to get one of those freshly cut trees from the mountainside. The Christmas tree complete with a family-designed nativity scene would be set up at the base of the tree.
There would be the excitement on the eve of Christmas day when children would happily clean up their shoes and fill them with straw and place them either under the Christmas tree or on the porch for ‘Papa Noel’ to put their presents in and around the shoes. A mild alcoholic beverage called Anisette is the drink of choice made by soaking ‘anise’ leaves in rum and sweetening with sugar.
“Oh, Saint can’t you see… it’s Home for Christmas for me” might be one of the songs coming from those on that returning flight with destinations to St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and St. Kitts & Nevis.” For the Lucians they might be hearing the boom bursting songs of those bamboo stalks that young boys would often make into homemade cannons by using kerosene sticks and bottle lamps. For those who would have gotten the time off, they might be eagerly anticipating the Festival of Lights and Renewal in honour of St. Lucy, with its lantern-making competition and decorated towns and villages.
Meanwhile, the nationals of St. Vincent & the Grenadines would be anticipating their Nine Mornings Festival, when people would wake before daybreak and come out in numbers for different activities, including of course sea baths, costumed dancing, and bicycle rides.
As for St. Kitts and Nevis like some other islands that line between Carnival and Christmas begin to blur and merge. One huge street party with music and dancing in the streets is a Christmas staple for this dual-island nation. Calypso music, steel band music, the big drum and fife corps, the Bull, Moko Jumbies and string bands are just some of what is to be anticipated once home in St. Kitts & Nevis for Christmas. Complimentary foods would include black pudding, goat water, conchs, johnny cakes and roti, and maybe the likes of a ‘Merry Christmas Kaiso’ might blast through the airways.
Masquerade competitions, such as Moko Jumbie and “Bull Man” together with a Miss Montserrat Show, would also be part of the dreams and longings for those on the flight from this island. Not to mention the house-to-house caroling, and feasting on a delicious roast pig, goat water, goat meat being cooked on a wood fire, potato pudding and dooknah.
“Even better is …home for Christmas” might be the thoughts of yet other passengers who are returning to the Bahamas, Barbados and Belize. For the Bahamians it would be thoughts of Junkanoo, the Boxing Day tradition with masked revelers singing, dancing and drumming their way through the town in a colorful parade.
For the Bajans on board the flight, it would be their annual Police Band Concert held at the Queen’s Park that might most be in mind. While those destined for Belize, the sounds of the John Canoe bands might be ringing in their ears altogether with sights of those beautifully decorated trees from the Mountain Pine Ridge in Belize, and of course, sipping on some “rum popo”, that rum-and-eggnog concoction.
Though universally, people of Caribbean heritage share the celebration of the Christmas Season, for the most part, there is a flavouring of the season that can only be experienced when one is home enjoying the colourful Christmas experience of their native Caribbean island.
By Kerriann Toby
Kerriann Toby holds a Master of Counselling and Bachelor of Psychology. She is a dynamic therapist, trained mediator; and educator since 2000. In addition to being a trained educator, mediator, and therapist, she is a certified Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) Professional. Kerriann has also trained in cyber counseling and holds clinical registration with Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) & Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA).
In mid-October 2015 she initiated operations of KarryOn geared toward the provision of a variety of enhancement and developmental services for the individual, groups and the organization; e-Coaching/Counseling, Mediation, EAP Services and the creative presentation of psycho-social information. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.