by Alloy, (c)copyright 1998
from Under de Breadfruit Tree'
ent have one Trini dat could tell me he ent like Cris'mas. Ah
go tell he strait to he face.....he lying. Ah doh care if yuh
born in Caratal, Arima, Icacos, Moruga, Biche, Toco, Siparia or
Palo Seco...... Cris'mas mean ah lot to ah Trini. Cris'mas to
ah Trini is like wat life is all about ....is 'bout God, family,
frens, food, fete and culture .... all mix up in one.
Sometimes ah does wonder who start Cris'mas in Trinilan'. Ah hear
some people say, it was de pyol an' dem, who did come across wid
Columbus, some say it was de French and anodder set ah people
say, was de English an' dem. To tell yuh de trut, ah doh really
care as long as ah get Cris'mas an' Boxin' Day off from work
to spread joy, drink mih rum an' fete. Wat more yuh want? But
in real seriousness, who really start dis Cris'mas fete? Ah doh
tink it was dem pyol because to start wit, dey doh know nutten
about frut cake, besides ah nevah see no picture ah Columbus wid
ah cuatro in he han'... maybe dey supply de Spanish words for
de parang tune an dem .....but Ah know for sure, dat Columbus
ent come wid no pastel eider, because where he did come from,
it didn't have no corn..... unless he did pass Venezuela fus'.
Accordin' to wat ah read in histry, he pass Venezuela strait.
Anodder ting is, wen Columbus went back to way he come from, he
didn't leave any ah he fellas in Trinidad to teach we 'bout Cris'mas.
Is long after....wen dey hear how ting nice dong here, dat dey
start to come back, one by one. So ah go give dem pyol de credit
for de spanish words in we parang. Ah really tink dat dem Venezuelan
give we a lot, wid dey quatro and pastel...widdout dem two
tings, we wooda have ah real paipsy ting to call, Cris'mas.
Ah doh tink dat de French people did like Cris'mas too much.
Wat dey give we? De only ting ah could tink about is ....NOEL!
As in de 'FUS NOEL'. Apart from dat, ah cyar tink ah nutten else!
Ah doh tink dat dem French was big on Cris'mas. Ah know dey did
like Carnival an' maybe dey uses to save up dey money to play
MAS. Besides, from wat ah hear 'bout dem French Creole, an' how
dey like money, ah bet it was dem making all de bush rum to sell
for Cris'mas, to put dat Potogee fella, Fernandes outta business.
Dem English had a big han' in we Cris'mas. Is dem dat introduce
we to carols, frut cake, biscuit in tin, salt ham in tar paper,
Cris'mas tree, Cris'mas cards, Fadder Cris'mas, linoleum, oilcloth,
all dem fancy nuts in de shell, like almon' and hazel, mashmallow,
eggnog, grapes, apple, toffee, choclate wrapup in dem fancy silver
paper, carbye, real cowboy gun (to play stickem-up), caps (for
de cowboy gun), dem pretty dolly (to play dolly house). Is
lot ah tings dey contribute to we Cris'mas, oui! Ah tink dat after
we, dey is de one dat contribute the mos'.
De onlies' tings ah know dat Potogee give we is, Rum an' Garlic
DE Chinee? Dey ent give we a fart! All dem do, is make money,
Cris'mas time, sellin' ham, liquor an' fireworks. Dem doh believe
in Jesus an' ting, besides Chinee cyar dance ( ah hear dat dey
does dance after de music stop, an' dey finish countin' dey money)
So dey doh even go to fête. Is few Chinee I know who did like
we kinda baccanal.... Choy Aming, Bobby Ammon, Steven Lee Heung
an' Ellis Chow Lin On ...... an' yuh know wat? Ah cyar remember
seein' none ah dem dancin'!
Is not until recent, dem Indian come out big in Cris'mas. Long
time dey uses to keep mostly to dey self, but one by one dey fall
in line...... besides, all dem dougla chilren hook up de both
sides ah de family. Who couldda stop dat? Before yuh could say,
'Jack Rabbit!'.... is Chutney Parang in we tail! It add pepper
to de Parang. Better yet! Dem Dos singin' dem Spanish tune like
dem self make it! Ah does wonder if dey know wat de words mean?.....
After all ah dat,yuh want to know wat make ah Trini Cris'mas so
special? Is all de commotion in de preparation, de activties,
de excitement, de music, de crowds, de build up to Chris'mas
Eve...... to walk in de house to smell, de new linoleum, de ham
boilin', de fresh baked frut cake and sweet bread....to sit quiet
an' look at de Cris'mas tree lites blinkin', an' in de distance
yuh hearin' carollers by de neighbour, singin' "O! Holy Nite'
and de radio playin' ah Soca Parang. If yuh cyar like dat, yuh
heart make out ah stone!
Yuh know all dem tings ah mention arready, like pastel, carols,
cards, cris'mas tree and so on, you could get any part of de worl',
except we doh have snow....besides, de only way we like snow,
is in snowball, wid milk if you please. Wat dey missin' is wat
WE have......wat we have? Dat is for dem to find out! For we,
Cris'mas is not a vie-key-vie ting .......Cris'mas does take plannin'.
From de time yuh finish buy all de chilren school books for dem
to go back to school, after de August holidays, we does start
to plan for Cris'mas.
Fus' ting, yuh have to fine out which one of yuh family from foreign,
coming over to spen' Cris'mas. Every year, someone ah dem does
come, because wen de cole take dey tail, is rite back home
dey does come to warm it up. Den yuh makes a list to shop wid.
Yuh have to start shoppin' early because of how tings always short
an' to save yuh from runnin' here and dere like 'Mahal'.
So yuh have to secure yuh prunes, raisins, currants and mixpeel
early and put dem to soak, for yuh frut cake. Den yuh have to
locate de proper corn meal, to make pastel. Every year de shops
does run out of pastel corn....is not every kine ah corn yuh use,
yuh know...... de local one ent good at all! Yuh have to get de
Venezuela bran'. Very important, yuh have to locate a supply ah
plantain or fig leaf..... dat is to wrap up de pastels and dem.
Nowadays, de young people usin' foil paper, buh I fine dat it
does take away from de tayse. Believe me, yuh know wat hard to
fine for Cris'mas? Is dem leaf! And since we have dis kinda
chutney parang....... it more scarce!
Nex on mih list, is mih hams an' mih turkey...... Yes, ah say
HAMS. Yuh does have to get at leas' two hams, one for de family
an' one for de parang side an' frens dat drop in. After dat is
de bev'rage stock ......yuh need hard an' sof', so yuh have to
prepare gingerbeer, sorrel and ponchecrema in advance .....yuh
have to stock up on wiskey, rum, wine an' beer. Ah does usually
buy a bottle ah brandy an' Harveys Bristol Cream, just in case
mih boss an' he wife drop in over de season. Apart from
all dat, yuh have to make de usual coconut sweetbred, ordinary
wite bred an' a few sponge cake......but dat yuh does leave for
las', because yuh doh want to make it too early to get mole an'
give people 'bad belly' ...yuh go nevah hear de end ah dat, because
Trini mout' wusser dan de internet.
Wonce mih food and bev'rage department organise, ah okay........is
only mih house to put in order....ah new piece ah linoleum for
de kitchen, two/tree curtain, ah cris'mas tree, ah scrubbin' here,
ah dustin' dere, some brite decorations an' cris'mas tree lites
for outside, an' I done fix. De fete now start!
Now, yuh does have to organise yuh fete an' dem real good, because
dey have so much fete. If yuh go to all, yuh sure to lose yuh
work, because yuh go be drunk all season. Well I like mih Parang
....so ah doh miss de opening competition, de semi-final and de
final...... an' wherever San Jose
playin' .....Ah dey wid dem! Dat mean from de middle of October
to de fus' week ah December, every weekend book! From Friday nite to
Monday mornin'.......fete like bush! From de middlle ah December
until Cris'mas Eve is office party an' house to house parang.Yuh
could just imagine yuh runnin' long on party an' short on res'
....... and wen yuh reach home to rest.....Guess wat? Is a set
ah noise de neighbour chilren makin', bussin' bamboo an' carbye
in yuh head....BOODOOM! BADAM! An' if it ent dat, is a group dat
drop in to sing Cris'mas carols....... an' no sooner dey leave,
annoder group singin' parang tune, drop in to eat an' drink yuh
out! Is ah good ting yuh did prepare in advance!
At las' Cris'mas Eve reach, so yuh get a quiet time to go
to midnite Mass an' pray. No sooner yuh reach home, anodder parang
side from de office drop in, guess wat? In all de commotion yuh
forget to pickup yuh mudderinlaw in de Airport .....she coming
in from Canada. But wid de grog in yuh head an' she bein' ah Trini
also, she go have to understand. Rite now, is more water dan flour!
By de time de parang side leave and yuh settle yuh mudderinlaw
in bed, is time to start preparing de Cris'mas lunch, because
yuh havin the immediate family over..... is ah good ting yuh did
plan in advance! By half past eleven Chris'mas Day, family start
to arrive an' yuh have to start entertainin'....
"Tantie! Is ah good ting it have Cris'mas, odderwise ah woodn't
ah see yuh!".....
"Uncle! YUh come like Santa Claus...Yuh does come once ah year!"
"We could smell de ham an' pastell from de road!"
"Yuh tree lookin' nice!"
"So wha' yuh get for Cris'mas?" ....... "But wha' happen to de
music?..... Yuh doh have Parang record?"
All dis time yuh tinking........Thank God today is de last, tomorrow
is lunch at Uncle .....the day after dat... one week's vacation
at Mayaro, to REST UP......... For CARNIVAL!
This story is dedicated to Dr.Joseph Rajkumar, my family doctor,
friend and brother in spirit........