Wed | Nov 14, 2018

Fondest memories of the ol time days

Published:Saturday | January 3, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Mitchell still, to this day, upholds the tradition of whitewashing during the yuletide season. - Photo by Tamara Bailey
Inez Evans (centre) with members of her family at a church celebration for the festive season. - Photo by Tamara Bailey
Ritinella Mitchell at a church celebration for the festive season. - Photo by Tamara Bailey

Tamara Bailey, Gleaner Writer

FARM, Manchester:

They say nothing lasts longer than a memory and, as the years go by and times change, many are comforted by the fact that they once experienced good times in the company of great people. Many people tend to reminisce on special moments such as birthday celebrations, anniversaries and graduations. But one that stands out among them all is the festive season Christmas to New Year celebrations.

Those were the days, expressed 79-year-old Inez Evans, with eyes closed and a smile on her face as she told the tales of her younger years.

"We looked forward to the special celebrations of the season, man ... and we start plan from early too."

She continued, "From early December we started getting things together leading up to last days... . We whitewash di trees and the stones, you know something pretty, and dem times deh di whitewash bright suh til it wud a blind you."

"On Christmas Eve," Evans says, "sweet potato pudding and cornmeal pudding would be on the coal fire and the meat, which would serve as protein for Christmas dinner, would be salted and smoked.

"You could feel it in the atmosphere from December straight up to January; it was just a celebratory mood, especially wid di bands and drums. From as far as the eyes could see and the ears could hear, residents from neighbouring and adjoining communities would rally to the beat of the drums to ring in the festive season on December 24.

"Everybody, adult and children, foot nuh wash, breakfast nuh mek yet, cause once you hear di drum and the bands man a pass through, you know you must join the procession in a di march," beamed Evans


"Once the morning march was complete, it was back to cooking up a storm for Christmas Day. From curried goat, pot roast, fried chicken and fish, rice and gungo peas, manish water, bammy to puddings, cakes and sorrel, everybody's prayer was May my stomach be larger than my eyes.

"We eat until we have colic man, but we will never trade those days for anything ... Now the celebrations have been watered down and the only thing that remains for some is the abundance of food, nothing else ... even New Year's Eve watchnight has changed," she lamented.

For Evans sister, Ritinella Mitchell, though poor homes were dominant in the community, counting stars, going to picnics and listening to Maas Ran and Miss Lou, had more entertainment value than what exists today.

"We never use to call it party, it was picnic, and it start from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and that was for the children. After 6 p.m., now you have the adults who would go and enjoy themselves ... at that time no child could be found, and if you miss the 6 p.m. curfew by a minute you would get a beating," expressed Mitchell.

Mitchell, who was among the dozens of children who received their holiday money by picking up rat cut coffee and carrying dried grass to farmers, said that was just one of the many things she looked forward to.

"Yes man, that's how we earned the penny to buy balloon and fire racket, nice, nice days ... . We would collect the money in time to go to the butcher for our parents and collect the beef in a we creng creng (basket), come home and clean up, knock out chink out a di bed and, at that time, it wasnt mattress, and we ready up fi go picnic.

"We knew how to make ourselves happy. Before we got a radio in the community, we use to sit and count stars, but then when the radio come we listen to Miss Lou and Maas Ran and gi laugh fi peas soup," she told Rural Xpress.

With many more days needed to tell the tales of the childhood escapades, the sisters are just hopeful that as the years progress a spirit of love will be found in all.