A Caribbean Christmas  

By Itah Sadu

Itha Sadu

I remember waking up early in the morning before dawn, as the sounds of pigs squealing next door drifted over the community. As children we were excited because this was the day we opened our piggy banks. What piggy banks you say? The piggy banks were the pigs we were given as children to raise and at Xmas time, the pigs would be killed and the meat sold. The money then was used for uniforms, treats, excursions and other necessities.

 We would hear the men coming to help Mr. Payne, the butcher next door, with the pigs. Hot water boiling, knives sharpening ready to crave choice pieces of pork for the Christmas rush of customers.

 My grandmother would then give us breakfast and hot chocolate tea. Yes, hot chocolate tea. In the Caribbean if it has hot water then it is tea. After we were given explicit instructions as we removed all furniture, cleaned the morris chairs and mahogany furniture with lemon oil.

 Then we swept, mopped and scrubbed all the floors so clean that we didn’t know how to enter our home again; everything was spotless. After that the baking started, pone, sweet bread, pound cake, black cake, sugar cakes and of course roasted peanuts. Christmas is a time of smells. I would look for the sweet bread that my grandmother placed the 25 cents in and I made a mark. Whoever received that bread with the 25 cents would receive pure good luck throughout the new year.

 Then came the putting up of the new blinds and, heaven forbid, you took the plastic off the furniture. Around the neighbourhood, delivery trucks off loaded all the new furniture, appliances and everything Christmas. These would probably be picked up after Christmas. Hence don’t take off the plastic.

 By late afternoon everything smelled good and looked great. We sprinkled white marl around the house to give the snow effect. The Christmas tree was decorated with all the good things from America, Canada and England. Even candy canes would be placed on the tree and overnight they would melt from the heat but they were from America.

 All through the district, shouts of “have a merry Christmas; yes, I going to pick up my dress for midnight mass; you got the souse from Ms. Richards yet? The barrel reach just in time, praise God.”

A snowman made of sand? A sandman? You decide. Regardless, this sandy snowman knows where the good weather is!

 Home after home looked cleaned, smelled like heaven. Folks played music loud on their gramophones “I am dreaming of a white Christmas” even in the Caribbean. Postcards with snow were dropped off through windows.

 By six o’clock we settled down in anticipation of Christmas day and Santa Claus coming down a chimney despite the fact the only chimney in the Caribbean were people smoking cigarettes.

 Finally, a peace settled on the neighborhood as people rested before mid-night mass and across the wind you would hear Nat king Cole singing “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.”

Christmas in the Caribbean, a time of old traditions, love, family, clean homes, music and of course the most wonderful thing, the smell of the season.