Christmas is a few days away. Christmas carols are playing; the stores are crowded with shoppers; colourful lights shine from houses at nights and schools celebrate with Christmas concerts and other activities during this festive season. This is also a solemn time when we think of the birth of Jesus who was sent to earth by God our Father to redeem us. The nativity scene is played over and over, with Mary and Joseph seeking shelter in a stable as no other place could be found in the town of Bethlehem to give birth to their child, Jesus.
By this time Vincentians would have cleaned their houses from top to bottom and are preparing to put up their new curtains, a practice which has been maintained over the years.
Vincentians go all the way with their celebrations. Nine Mornings has not lost its clout. People go to church for the Novena services or gather on the streets to take in some musical celebrations.
However, one notable celebration that seems to have lost its impact or has diminished, is the practice of serenading from house to house. This was always a group endeavour. The group used to be an organized group or one spontaneously put together to bring Christmas cheers, especially in the village setting. Steel pan bands moved from house to house serenading the master, mistress and occupants of the house with their melodious music. They played beautifully and left a feeling of good cheers to the occupants of the house. They were given a monetary contribution. The Dickson steel pan band performed par excellence in the surrounding villages and the villagers always welcomed them. I can only lament the disappearance, not only of the serenades, but that of steel pan in the area.
The practice of Christmas has been etched indelibly in the minds of Vincentians so much so that many who live abroad return to their homeland with its warmth and rich culture. They remember the ginger beer with the clove floating on the top of the glass, mauby, sorrel, black wine, sweet potato pudding, coconut tarts, black cake and all the other goodies. They bring their children and friends to savour the taste of Vincentian cuisine. The pork, beef and fish all taste oh so good!
Vincentians look forward to barrels of foodstuff from their family abroad. The contents most often last well into the New Year. Families are generous especially at this time and often share the contents of their barrel with other families who are less fortunate. The discount that the government allows, gives incentive to the people abroad to send more barrels than they otherwise would.
This is in keeping with the spirit of the season. It means that those receiving would not have to pay exorbitant custom duties. These gestures are no doubt well appreciated and have been in force for several years now.
Kingstown, the capital city, comes alive. The merchants try to cash in on the Christmas sales, offering bargains and pay-later plans to the customers. There are also lively programs on the radio encouraging shoppers to come to shop. Loudspeakers blare out the bargains to the public and the reluctant customers sometimes get caught up in the frenzy. The market people with their display of ground provision strike a hard bargain. They shout out their ware to attract the wary buyers.
Vincentians love Christmas. We all say we wish everyday were like Christmas.
Be of good cheers! Enjoy your Christmas and pray for an incident free day.
Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law. E-mail address is: [email protected]