By Oscar Wailoo
“Christmas-time [is]… the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely and to think of people below them as if they were really fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
Ebenezer Scrooge’s nephew Fred
They say that as you get older, time moves quicker and, if the speed at which this Christmas returned is any measure, then time has certainly picked up the pace.
Of course, complaining is futile, for no one, has been able to stop time. So, as the good season comes in another rush, those who can handle the pace will pick their moments and make the best of a time that insists we show goodwill to all.
For Caribbean people who have made Canada their home, the Christmas season has special significance. Most will get sentimental about the “good ole days” back home when “Christmas was Christmas”. But that nostalgia soon gives way to a sobering fact – Canada is home.
When they reflect further, they soon realize that once they have come to terms with living in the North, where winter is sometimes white or certainly cold, they take it in stride and strike up the band. They settle down and celebrate a Canadian Christmas.
Good thing for Canada and better for Caribbean folk too, because if they had remained down south they would never have been drawn together to taste the many flavours which the many cultures have brought to this land. It is made even sweeter because Canada has openly embraced the full spectrum of peoples and said “go ahead and be who you want to be.”
Caribbean people have taken that direction to heart and transplanted the joys of Caribbean Christmases past.
One of the finer Caribbean transplants is the long tradition of multi-religious participation in Christmas. For years, Trinidad and Guyana, which have large Christian, Muslim and Hindu populations, Christmas transcended religious boundaries. It became a time when all took the idea of “Peace on Earth and Goodwill towards all men” seriously and, if the many Parang fetes I attended this season are any measure, the Caribbean Christmas has defied prevailing religious attitudes by remaining a source of unity rather than division.
Caribbean folk will tell you that once the rum starts flowing, everyone breaks into song about three wise men following a star which leads to a humble manger to give gifts in humility. Here the specific religious element is replaced by the larger one of giving generously – an element common to all religions.
The truth is that that attitude cannot be helped, for we know of no other time that is suffused with such grand mythology, all of which lead to the good, if only for a few days in December.
Apart from spending yourself into bankruptcy – something we should always guard against – the message of Christmas fits nicely within the varied system to which people subscribe. It is a time to set aside differences, embrace each other in a spirit of friendship and let profit take a back seat.
So we at The Camera extend an invitation to all of our Canadian brothers and sisters, all of them, to step into a Caribbean-Canadian home this season and partake of the warmest time in the middle of winter and sup with us. Drink our booze; sing a song, any song, in any beat. We can give you God Rest You Merry Gentlemen in traditional style, in soca, reggae, kaiso chutney or parang.
We will serve you ham, sorrel, garlic pork, pepper pot, pastilles and punch a crème. We will dance with you nonstop in the best of spirits. We will eschew politics and solve the world’s problems in grand moments of sentimentality. We will wish you peace and prosperity and mean it.
All you need to do is step in the door; it is always left ajar in this season.