Tue | Oct 17, 2017

A Nostalgic Jamaican Christmas

Published:Thursday | December 24, 2015 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

This is the time of year when I always reminisce about those unforgettable days of never-ending fun and frolic in Jamaica. It was the first week in December, and I knew that Christmas was just around the corner. There was no guessing because I felt the soothing 'Chrismus breeze' gliding across my face.

I can still recall what transpired at Christmas time in the 1940s and '50s. The house underwent a thorough cleaning and everything was spic and span.

Now the stage was set for the elaborate undertakings and celebrations that lasted from Christmas Eve to New Year's Day.

I can never forget the beehive of activities on Christmas Eve night on city streets and in the stores, where shoppers were extremely busy buying gifts and frolicking with one another. Nevertheless, a significant number of people attended church services.

After this, everyone geared up for a sumptuous breakfast. This first meal was made up of a conglomeration of ackee and salt fish or mackerel, boiled green bananas, roast breadfruit, fried plantains, hard dough bread, chocolate tea, coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice.

This was sometimes followed by a relative period of relaxation when neighbours exchanged greetings; when firecrackers exploded and dominoes slammed down forcefully. All these things occurred while the usual political and religious chatter reverberated.

As the day wore on, everybody's mind was focused on the traditional Christmas dinner. This was a meal fit for a Royal family. I can never forget the rice and gungo (pigeon) peas, roast beef, ham, curried goat and fried chicken. What made this meal delectable was the fact that the meat was very fresh. Everything was finger-licking good.

I can fondly remember the sorrel, the aerated drinks and and the ginger beer. Of course, the older folks had their usual fill of rum, rum punch, red South African wine, etc. I would be remiss if I did not mention the customary eggnog.

And who can forget the cake and plum pudding, amply served with jello or egg-custard?

The Christmas festivities were not complete without the usual entertainment of fairs with live bands that imitated the big-band sounds of America. This was the time for dancing and general merrymaking.

As a youngster in Jamaica during the 1940s and '50s, I always looked forward to the colourful jonkunnu parades at Christmas time.

Who could ask for anything more? That was Christmas celebration and entertainment in the island of Jamaica.

Merry Christmas to all Jamaicans, whether living at home or abroad. Jamaica, Land we love.

RUPERT JOHNSON

r.b.johnson@sympatico.ca

Toronto, Ontario

Canada, M1C 3M7