My granny used to say, “Christmas is for the children.” I was born nine days before Christmas day in Guyana. My childhood Christmases were spent basking in the hot, Guyanese Eldorado sun, running bare feet in the wild blades of grass and devouring pepperpot. My grandparents gifted me many picturesque memories of this time of year.
They lived in a wooden, colonial-style house adorned with countless windows. Christmas Eve found me watching my granny cook our traditional dishes. The wind blew the new curtains towards the ceiling, high and low like Mahalia Jackson’s majestic voice on the record player. The scent of the freshly painted walls, sorrel, mauby, and homemade bread consumed the quaint home. I often watched the record spun, “What child is this who laid to rest on Mary’s lap is sleeping?” My grandad strummed his acoustic guitar while humming along. In his profound Bajan accent, he would ask me with a loving smile, “chile, yuh wan some souse?” We all sat together, said grace, and ate like it was the most satisfying meal of the year.
At night, the blinking fairy lights that draped our Christmas tree and walls enraptured us children as we played with the toys we received on Christmas day. My granny, who was a guitarist too, would set my little fingers on the strings, teaching me how to play carols every year. In that space and time, my love of the holidays flourished. Up to the present time, my winter Christmases are filled with traditional Caribbean foods, merriment, and music. But every year, during the festivities, my eyes well up with nostalgic tears… I miss my grandparents.
Some little children will not talk to their grandparents or loved ones during the holidays. For them, I recommend a superb picture book. “Christiano’s Blue Christmas” is written by Thalia Bennett, with effervescent illustrations by Beatriz Mello. It is about an unbreakable bond between a young boy and his grandfather. Christiano is experiencing a blue Christmas after the death of his grandfather. The book highlights the healing magic we can find in the togetherness of family while allowing us to discuss grief. The Canadian-born author, Thalia, is of Caribbean heritage, a Registered Psychotherapist and the owner of Reflections Counselling and Psychotherapy Services in Canada.
While you celebrate and make new and beautiful memories with your family and friends during the holidays, please remember to keep safe. This includes Santa! “Did Santa Wear a Mask? A Christmas Adventure with the JAG Brothers,” written by a talented Canadian based author, Chesand Gregory, finds Santa in a bit of a pickle during the pandemic. The JAG brothers, dressed in their Jamaican flag-themed super-hero masks and capes, restored Santa’s Christmas magic while keeping everyone safe.
Christmas magic includes cookies in most Canadian homes. It’s the perfect time to teach kids how to bake this delicious treat. “It’s Cookie Time” is written by Kirsten E. Foster, a Canadian born author of Guyanese descent. She is passionate about literature for children. The educational story is about Ezekiel, Erza and their aunt. They found joy while perfecting their culinary skills in the kitchen.
It’s that time of the year when many kids will be leaving milk and cookies for Santa. My marvellous son, who is the inspiration for my children’s books, will be gifting Santa a piece of black cake and a tall glass of sorrel drink. I wrote “A Piece of Black Cake for Santa” in 2016 and independently published this Caribbean Christmas themed children’s book in 2017. The illustrations were revised in 2019 by a South African artist, Subi Bosa. This book was recently adopted and traditionally published by Chalkboard. It is also in various bookstores and libraries in Canada, the UK, USA, Jamaica, and Guyana. It includes an alcohol-free black cake recipe by an educator of Jamaican heritage and culinary instructor, Monique Creary.
It’s a celebration with children of the Caribbean diaspora who plan to leave their traditional Caribbean treats such as black cake, pastelles, sorrel, bread, and jug-jug for Santa. The kids relish in the winter festivities while playing in the snow. Like my granny, I too believe – Christmas is for the children. I wish you a blessed Christmas and a prosperous new year from my home to yours! p.s. – please leave a piece of black cake for Santa!
Please visit the websites of A Different Booklist, Knowledge, Indigo, Amazon and many more for this festive list.