Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Caribbean Christmas

Christmas back home in the Caribbean is more than a day, it's a season, you can feel it in the air from early December. Everybody is talking about it, and holiday music is playing on the radio and in the stores. We’re all busy cleaning and fixing our homes up. New curtains, new furniture, even new appliances! We're mincing and soaking our fruit in wine, we're making sorrel, punch-a-creme and ginger beer; we're buying cases of soft drinks and beer; we're making sure we have wine, Harvey’s Bristol Cream and Bailey's Irish Cream.


One day you get home and the whole house smells of baked ham with cloves, and you check the fridge to make sure you have Piccalilli. There's always some kind of party, you have your office party, your friend's office party, all kinds of activities to go to. Parang music!!! Not to mention Sparrow's version of "There's no place like home for the holidays", Red Plastic Bag's "Maisie" and The Merrymen's "Santa Got a Sunburn". Friends you haven't seen in ages drop by the house saying "Compliments of the Season!" because they have to taste your ham and cake.


Finally you get your tree and set it up, close to the window of course so everyone can see it as they pass by. And one tradition particular to our house: Mummy coming home on the last day of school with gifts from all her students and us trying to convince her she can't open them till Christmas Day. It never worked of course!


Then the cake is baked and you break out the sorrel and have it over crushed ice. By Christmas Eve everything is perfect, the gifts are under the tree, you’ve given cake to your friends and family - because everyone has to have an assortment to compare! You’ve also stocked up on Quality Street candies, After Eights and other treats. There’s a bowl of nuts on the coffee table with a nutcracker nearby. Maybe you head to midnight mass, maybe not, one thing is for sure, Santa Claus is on your mind! At some point in the night you might hear singing outside, most likely a group of merry gentlemen and they won’t go until the rum come!


Christmas morning arrives, and on the breakfast menu is fresh baked bread with fried ham (with Piccalilli!), maybe some bakes and saltfish souse with cocoa tea. But that is only after the gifts are opened and we all thank each other. Then comes the big preparation for lunch. If the extended family is getting together it’s a bit easier since everyone pitches in and makes one or two dishes. On the menu: Stuffed turkey, more ham, stewed peas, macaroni pie, rice and peas, a big salad, sweet potato casserole, green beans…. No need to ask what’s for dessert – fruit cake of course!


Then things calm down, depending on your age you play with new toys, read a book or spend time chatting. By the end of the day talk turns to the next big event: what are we doing for Old Years Night?

5 comments:

borcherding said...

MMMMMMM...Bailey's...nothing says Christmas time like Bailey's Irish Cream. :-)

Maritza said...

So curious. Where is home?

Vanessa, Florida, USA said...

Oh Francine, that was so beautiful!!! Thoughts of my Puerto Rican family traditions came rushing back... the Caribbean is so festive and exciting... Happy Holidays to you!

lizzie said...

omg i love that elsie paper!!!!

Francine said...

Posting this made me really homesick! lol Vanessa I spent a couple Christmas seasons in Puerto Rico and really enjoyed it! Maritza, home fore me are the islands of Grenada and Barbados :)