New year party the J'can way
WITH PIECES of chicken strewn across a grill and the sound of calypso music blaring from a car stereo, good friends Peter Young, Christopher Frederick, and Julian Rodney were all set to ring in the new year.
It was even more special because they had their wives and children with them to ensure they enjoyed some family time as midnight approached on Thursday.
"This is what New Year should really be about," said Frederick.
"Instead of drinking and partying with a bunch of strangers, you are with family just hanging out together. It's a good feeling. I'm enjoying it," he continued.
They were among hundreds of persons who opted to skip the traditional watchnight church service and head to the promenade along the Palisadoes strip in east Kingston to enjoy the fireworks on the Kingston Waterfront and welcome the new year.
Scores of vehicles lined both sides of the roadway as the sounds of chatter, laughter and a few firecrackers pierced the calm of the cool, windy night. But Young, who came up with the idea to gather at that spot seven years ago, remembers a time when it was different.
"It was peaceful. We did not have all these vehicles and we could see everything," he said with a laugh. "As the years went by, we carried a grill and we started getting a party-like mood and invited more friends, and it is what it is today," Young explained.
It was the first time along the promenade for Sandre Sharpe, who admitted that he and his wife, Keresha, were usually in church to start the new year.
"We attend the Church on the Rock and, usually, when it's time for the fireworks, we would come out to watch. But this year we said, instead of going to town, we would come over here and get a better view and have some quality family time," he explained, cradling his infant son, Jeremiah.
Popping a bottle of champagne several metres away, Junior Halsall sought to explain that it was not a question of shunning watchnight service.
"This is just a quiet, inexpensive way of ringing in the new year with friends and family," Halsall reasoned as he poured the bubbly for his wife, Norma, good friends Junior Murray and wife Verletta, and their adult daughter, Johnetta.
"We can sit here with this nice ambiance, with the breeze, and we can have a nice view of the harbour where we will be able to see the fireworks," he continued.
The crowded promenade stood in stark contrast to the nearly vacant benches in several churches in the Corporate Area. At 10 o'clock on New Year's Eve, only a handful of worshippers were at the Covenant Moravian Church on Molynes Road.
An hour later, it was a similar story at the Church of God in Christ on Mountain View Avenue, where worshippers huddled to one side of the large structure.
However, it was a completely different story at the Church of the Open Bible, located along Washington Boulevard, which was full to capacity by 9:30 p.m. According to one church official, approximately 30 per cent of those in attendance were visitors from the adjoining communities of Washington Gardens, Duhaney Park and Patrick City.
For Sharon Laidlaw, who was with her husband and two children, starting the new year in church was an opportunity to "give God thanks for His goodness, His mercies and His provision for the last year and to rededicate my life to Him".
"As a family - my husband, my children and I -- we believe it's the right thing to do," she underscored.
Laidlaw, who grew up in rural Jamaica, revealed that attending watchnight service is something she had been doing since she was a child. "From as far back as I can remember, this is what I've done," she stressed.
"It has been my lifestyle and at this age, there is no point in changing, so it will always be this for me. I think it's just the best thing to do; starting the new year in the presence of God," she insisted.