Day 29 – What’s Your Favorite Time of Year and Why?
Today’s 31 Day Blog Challenge Topic asks a very obvious question – what is your favorite time of year, and why? The answer is, of course:
I think most people agree that the Holidays bring in a feeling of good cheer, happier spirits, celebration and family time. Growing up in Jamaica, Christmas was a magical time of year from childhood days till present. Let me try to share a little about what it was like – my hope is that you will be able to visualize it in your mind…
It is the time of year when you feel Christmas Breeze. Normally, the weather is pretty hot – oppressive, even, at times. But at Christmas time, the sun still shines brightly and the days are beautiful, but a sweet, soft breeze blows all day long, making it the best time of year, weather-wise. We call it Christmas Breeze and in Jamaica, we look forward to it all year. Poinsettia goes into full bloom everywhere and it seems the island is awash in color everywhere you look.
Christmas lights adorn homes, shops and trees everywhere, adding a beautiful, festive glow as you go about your business. Christmas songs play throughout the day on the radio stations and in the stores. I can remember hearing some of my favorites, like Mary’s Boy Child, Deck The Halls, Silver Bells, Carol of the Bells, Oh Holy Night – so many beautiful hymns and carols all throughout the day.
Brightly colored food stands or ‘shops’ pop up along the streets, as people who need and want to take advantage of the extra money spent during the season take to the streets with fruits – like sorrel, with its rich, crimson colored leaves, which we use to make our favorite Christmas drink – and vegetables.
Stalls with brightly colored toys, clothing and all kinds of accessories and sundry, line the roads, despite the police attempts to move them along – it is a time for a man to ‘eat a food’, as we say – or make a little extra money to feed their families and provide gifts and treats for them.
It is a time of festivity – the calendar is full of office parties and social gatherings. Holiday office parties are often the major staff and customer appreciation event for the year at most companies and are greeted with great anticipation each year. People don their best and gather for the celebration of the year.
I can see the shiny silver sparkles on dresses, the vibrant colors on the smartly attired guests, and, most of all, the smiling faces, laughing and dancing at the fetes and parties, in my mind’s eye. The rum flows, the music gets turned up and feet move on the dance floors throughout the island.
Christmas time in Jamaica is party time. The best parties are held during the Holiday season. In the early years, it was also a time for Junkanoo dancers in their bright, intricate costumes, at the Christmas parades of my youth. We had such fun!
From childhood, Christmas was the best time of year. The youngest of seven children, I benefited from having my parents spoil me at Christmas time plus all of my older siblings as well.
We don’t have chimneys in Jamaica, so the concept of Santa and how he delivered gifts had to be more creative in each home. I just remember that, in my home, we had presents from Santa and presents from the family.
In my home, Santa delivered his gifts during the dead of night, at the bottom of your bed. When you woke up, the foot of your bed was covered in a pile of toys. I remember, one year – oh, I must have been maybe 5 or 6 – waking up in the dark, early morning when everyone else was still asleep, and seeing a large shape at the foot of my bed and being petrified. Being a child who endured terror in silence and the inability to move, I lay there till the morning light crept in, illuminating a large, shaggy, blue stuffed dog from Santa that would become my constant companion.
Another time, I remember hearing a noise downstairs, and I bravely snuck down a few steps to peek to see if I could catch Santa at work, placing gifts under the tree in our living room – but it was my older brother, who had come home late and had stayed up to finish wrapping his gifts and put them under the tree for the morning.
In the early years, we woke up on Christmas morning and had to go to Mass before any opening of gifts – torture for a child bursting with anticipation about all of the brightly wrapped gifts under the tree!!! But my parents were both determined that Jesus’ Birthday would start first and foremost with a party in His House, and also that extending the anticipation for as long as possible made the experience richer and more memorable.
Once we got home we had a traditional Jamaican breakfast, complete with ackee and saltfish, green bananas, yam and johnnycakes, together as a family. And then, finally, it was gift time, by which time, the level of anticipation was pumped up to the maximum high. We would each open a gift, one at a time, in order of age. That means 9 people, with my parents included, one at a time. So my oldest sister would start and we would work our way down and then start the circle again. It was the best of times.
The rest of the day was followed by Christmas Dinner, with Uncles and Aunts and cousins joining us for a lavish family dinner and gathering.
The meal, in our house, was always served buffet style. The table was lined with beautifully plated Jamaican traditional favorites, like roasted chicken, roast beef, Christmas Ham, garnished with pineapple and cloves, coconut flavored rice and ‘gungo’ peas (pigeon peas), macaroni and cheese, plantains, potato salad, salad, veggies and the infamous rum and/or wine infused Christmas pudding. It was a huge spread of perfectly prepared food that was piled into plates for firsts and seconds.
The grown ups would hang out together on the patio, drinking sorrel and rum punch, laughing and telling stories. Gales of laughter and clinking glasses could be heard as the children played games of catch, hide and seek, and murder in the dark through the evening, till we were told it was the end of the night. At that time, as the guests were each seen off, the children indulged in the game of ‘Last Lick’ – which basically meant whoever delivered the last ‘lick’ or ‘touch’ or ‘slap’ won!
As a newly wed, I was anxious to start my own family traditions. The first Christmas, we bought our own richly scented, natural pine tree, and a group of friends came over to help us decorate it. It was beautiful.
I bought my husband’s gifts, wrapped them and placed them under the tree with what seemed like more excitement than he felt and went to bed, so excited for the morning when we would celebrate our first opening of gifts together. I woke up that first morning to find only the ripped-up wrapping paper under the tree. The little bugger had ripped them open as soon as I went to bed. I learned very quickly that despite his age, he cannot see something and know that it is there and not open it! Many years later, I still have to hide his gifts. 🙂
As life progressed, Christmas is very different when you don’t have children. The whole excitement of the tree and the gifts beneath it is really for kids, after all. Different is not bad – it is just different. We still put up a Christmas Tree. And I still prefer the look, feel and smell of a real tree. One of my favorite things is a set of Christmas decorations that my sister gave me one year – beautifully hand-painted ornaments that have the names of each member of our family written out on them. It is so meaningful to me.
We still typically entertain on Christmas Day. My brother and his wife host Thanksgiving and we do Christmas, but ours is a smaller affair usually. We serve the Jamaican traditional favorites and it is a celebration of life and family that really still is my favorite time of year.
Christmas is more meaningful to me now, though, as a committed Christian. Oh, I was raised to believe in and know God – but accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior as an adult brings a whole new level of understanding and meaning to the celebration.
The nativity scene brings to life the Christmas Story and all it really means for humanity. I usually find a bible reading plan that focuses on the birth and rebirth of Jesus in my life, for me to focus on and apply. Some years I do an Advent Calendar or Advent Candles. The Grace that I say over our Christmas Dinner thanks God for the ultimate gift that we have ever and could ever receive and I try to live the season by giving joy to others in any way I can, whether random or planned.
I am in a new home and a new season of life for me – but no matter where I am or what the circumstances, Christmas will always be my favorite time of year. Because of the memories. The memories and understanding of the gift of Jesus in the world, and more personally, in my life. And the memories of family, celebration, the sights, smells and sounds of a Jamaican Christmas…
I hope you’ll enjoy this collection of Jamaican Christmas Carols -save it and let it bless your Holidays this year – Yardie-Style!
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3: 16 NLT
But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
Luke 1: 30-35 NIV