How many ways can you say merry Christmas? I wrote down a few, no I am not multi lingual, I Googled them, ‘the new way to look smart’.
“Merry Christmas: Joyeux Noë: Geseënde Kersfees: Feliz Navidad: Feliz Natal: Glædelig Jul: Zalig Kerstfeast: Melkin Yelidet Beaal: Froehliche Weihnachten: Mele Kalikimaka: Christmas Mon”
After I Goggled, I got thinking about Christmas music. My kids don’t like Christmas Music, well so they say, so I began thinking about the reasons why. I Googled some of the popular Christmas songs and I can understand why the kids are not into them. When they were little they would ask me what the songs meant and I could not answer. Here are some examples.
“Hark the herald angels sing”
“Deck the halls with boughs of holly, Fa la la la la, la la la la.”
How do I explain these words? I guess you just take it for granted that they mean something; it is what it is, like faith.
There are lots of things in life that you just take for granted, example; if you are a Facebook user you know that sometimes you get newsfeeds that are really old and you wonder why they showing up now. How does Facebook sort the feeds? I wish someone would explain to me the logic behind the sequence of Facebook newsfeeds.
I guess no one knows for sure but I bet you wondering where I am going with this.
A few weeks ago (pretend that we are in 2010 when I wrote this), I saw this feed from my cousin Keeth France announcing the kickoff of the SKN carnival season. This was at the beginning of November, so I had to look at the date, is it current or is it one of Facebook feed problem?
Makes you wonder what you been missing, what the heck, the start of the carnival season in November? I am obviously out of touch.
Being the sceptic that I am, after all it is just data on a computer, the next day I went online to a SKN radio station (kyssonline.com) and sure enough they were playing Christmas music. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas music so it can never start too early. In fact I think they should move the kick off back to October, just so I can listen to the music.
If I started playing Christmas music at home in October, my kids would wonder if it’s time for the straight jacket.
When I was a kid growing up in St Kitts, Christmas season (Carnival) started in the middle of December. Maybe a week or so earlier you would hear the bands in the village tuning up for the season. It was a time of great anticipation. It was the music was what triggered the seasonal good feelings.
The week of Christmas was quite magical. The magic for me included the arrival of the ‘Canadian Apples’. I have to interject here. I immigrated to Toronto in January, right after the Christmas season. On my first trip to the supermarket in Toronto, imagine my surprise when I saw Macintosh (Christmas) apples. Christmas will never be the same with the apple smell all year, sacrilegious.
Maybe they did not realize that Christmas had passed, is what I was thinking.
Before I started writing this story I asked my siblings, the ones closest to me in age, what they remembered about Christmas gift giving at home and I got 3 different stories.
One sister recalled that my dad would buy each of us a gift. That seems so unlikely to me, he was not the shopping type. My brother remembers that my dad, sometime during the week of Christmas, would get a handful of money, toss the bills in the air and a great scramble would follow. That was our gift buying money. My dad had a mischievous streak about him, but I don’t recall that story, besides I was mean, so chances are I would have ended up with most of the money.
What I remember was my mom going downtown on Christmas Eve and buying us all a gift. During the week leading up to her shopping spree I would window shop and give my mom a list. Oh yea, I would walk the streets, visit all the stores and dream.
Whatever the truth is, that’s the magic of Christmas I guess, you make up your own memories.
The magic for me was in the twinkling Christmas lights.
We all agreed on one thing. My mom would go shopping for material to make curtain just before the magical day. She was also a part time seamstress. She would change the curtains in the house every Christmas. They gave the house a nice new look. Also my dad would get some guys to lay new linoleum. I am not sure it that was every Christmas but it happened around Christmas time. We would also decorate the tree on Christmas Eve.
New linoleum, nice curtains, fresh (some rotten) apples, smell of the tree, blinking lights, Christmas music, toys, sorrel water and one of my favourites, fresh baked cake, mom’s, ahh heaven.
I had an Aunt Elsie that lived in NY (she died recently at 96, may she rest in peace). She would send us a barrel of clothes every couple of years. One year, I was 12 I believe, she sent me my first long pants. I was now a big man, except I could only wear them when my dad was not around. There was only one man in our house. Hahahaha, I think.
Anyway who does not like Christmas music?
Christmas day was generally very quiet; we went to church, did the gift thing and waited for Boxing Day.
I almost forgot, we had an ice cream mixer. I hated that thing, it was really hard to turn, but the ice cream was awesome, just another Christmas memory.
Boxing Day, this was the carnival season mixed in with Christmas, great times, music, masquerades, clowns, steel pan, cake. I was a cake thief. These performing troupes would parade the village stopping at certain places to perform their act then moving on. We were quite fortunate to have a great view from the second floor balcony in our house. The troupes would stop and perform for us. The villagers would gather around and enjoy the show.
My favourite performers was the ‘swaga business’ troupe. The guys would make fun of other people in rhyme to music. Today it is called improvisational theatre. They were really good at the craft. My dad would pay the performers.
Then there was the ‘Bull’ from Sandy Point, I think his name was Wusu. He took the job seriously. People were genuinely scared of this guy. It was like the running of the bulls in Spain. This guy dressed as a bull would actually try to gourd onlookers. I remembered one year this guy Bim, had to climb up a tree in front of the Byron’s house to get away from the Bull, well the Bull went up the tree after him. He had to jump from a high branch to escape the bull. Haha, good times.
When the bull entered the village the streets would empty, only the very bold would stick around.
Do they have Sycamore trees in St Kitts? I think the tree that Bim climbed was a Sycamore tree.
What I remembered most about that art form was the music. Bull music had some special beats that lingered long after the troupe had left.
I love St Kitts style Christmas cake. I would do the cake run in the middle of the night when everyone was asleep. My mom’s cake was so good.
Can someone send me a St Kitts style Christmas cake?
That’s all I want for Christmas, and an iPad and for some unknown reason I keep buying shirts, I could use some more, not blue or grey or brown but with vertical stripes, they make me look taller.
Did I mention that my kids don’t really care for Christmas music? My grandkids do. Maybe it skipped a generation.
The first 5 years of the 1970’s my life in Toronto was quite tumultuous, menial jobs, lots of stresses and loneliness. Christmas was probably the only ‘fun’ time of the year. The first couple of Christmases I would spend the day with my Uncle Rowland’s family. Mother Gwyn, my aunt knew how to do the Christmas trimmings and I have lots of cousins.
It was great for the first two years, knowing me, I was probably asked not to come back, I can be mischievous. I am not sure why but the next two years that followed I spent with my Uncle Godwin and his family.
Actually I do remember, it was a man thing. He and I were the only males in the house so we got the Turkey legs, important detail.
Then the mid 70’s came along, my jobs situation improved although I kept getting fired. Luckily I was always able to find a better job every time. It seemed like there was a master plan that I was not privy to.
As you know I got married, had a baby and in the middle of all this chaos both of my parents passed away.
This year I find myself reflecting a lot on my parents. I lived with them to just past my 18th birthday (my brat years) and didn’t have a change to know them as an adult. I probably missed a lot.
(If you think you are missing some details just read my blog).
I am the 3rd from the bottom of 13 siblings. By the mid 70’s 2 of my slightly older sisters and my younger brother was all living in Toronto. After my parents passed away my youngest sister J joined us. J was around my mom by herself and she was lucky to have her undivided attention. She even learned to cook really well.
Me and my siblings would spend a lot of time together especially on holidays.
In the 70’s (as today) we would gather at one of our houses on Christmas day. Each year we would rotate from house to house. Each of us had at least one baby, the Carter clang was growing. We would try and do some of the things we did back in St Kitts. We were young and could still wuukup (hahaha dance and gyrate our waist for my Canadian friends). We danced, sang, ate and be merry. My brother in law VB would always make sorrel water (Google). I didn’t have to steal cake anymore I always went home with at least two whole ones. My sisters know me well.
It is hard to explain what it is like when the siblings get together. If you have ever been around us you know it is madness. Do you know we can all be having our own unique conversation, all at the same time and with each other? In some miraculous way the conversations would end at the same time with full understanding. The volume can be overwhelming; no one else can understand us. I believe we learned that skill competing for my mom’s attention. My mom was able to follow the individual sound bites and react accordingly.
I have a video of the siblings dancing, ooops wuuking up to string band music; unfortunately it’s on a ‘big’ cassette tape. It would be good YouTube video.
Back then the kids enjoyed the Christmas because the parents were having such a great time.
The eighties rolled around and my life changes again. Jo is from Quebec and she is very close to her family. We would go to Quebec every other year. When Christmas rolled around only wild horses could keep her away. We had some interesting trips. I remember one year we left Toronto in a snow storm. We were not able to see more than a single car length ahead of us. We followed trucks all the way.
We travelled in this blinding snow storm for eight hours. Our destination was Sherbrook in the eastern townships in Quebec, which is very mountainous. There were parts of the trip where I would look to my left and see a drop of hundreds of feet. If we slid off the road, no one would know until the snow melted.
Driving in Sherbrook was no piece of cake either. They forgot to level the ground when they built the city. The city is all uphill with snow covered roads; I don’t think they remove the snow all winter. In the early days I had a stick shift. As I get to the top of the hills I would have to keep the car in one place without rolling back, I would swear there was always someone behind me following. I think this was scarier than the Bull runs in St Kitts when I was a kid.
As a rule we would leave Toronto as early as possible. If the weather was fine we would make it by 1pm in the afternoon, 5 hours journey. One year, we had just purchased a nice big car. The car was big enough to separate the three babies in the back seat. J and D were mortal enemies, so we would place E between them. He was Cool Hand Luke, nothing would upset him.
That year after we packed the car with all the gifts and our clothes the night before and made the mistake of leaving the car on the driveway. As bad luck would have it, there was a party in our neighbourhood that night, some guy needed a ride home and borrowed our car.
At two in the morning the cops came to our house looking for me. The guy who took the car was drunk, when they tried to stop him, he bolted. They assumed it was me.
We lost all our toys and clothes. They recovered the car a few days later. We had to use the smaller car where the kids were scrunched together in the back seat.
Brutal trip that year.
D. ‘Are we there yet?’
J. ‘ I need to go to the bathroom’
D. ‘I am hungry’
J. ‘ D won’t stop looking at me’
J. ‘I’m itchy’
E. Shut up I want to sleep.
Questions and complaints would start within 20 minutes of leaving the house; we would still be in Scarborough.
The kids loved Christmas in Quebec. Lots of snow activities with lots of family and a real Santa Claus came to the house. I found out years later it was my brother in law, no harm done.
Six years ago we moved to Calgary, we had to make some new traditions. Luckily we have the kids and a son in law and the boys’ girl friend. This year the boys are single I think, less gifts to purchase (that was last year).
Jo and I support many charities.
The big question is, will I still be enjoying the music in a week and after all it started early this year. I think there is an annual shelf life after which the music becomes hard to listen to. Only time will tell.
The only Kittitian couch potato is Calgary.
Happy Holidays and remember to do something nice for someone.
Things to Support:
St Kitts Authors:
Buy a book for christmas
My man Cris
And a local charity of your choice.